^ — " x-
THIS "O-P BOOK" Is AN AUTHORIZED Ri PRINT or TIM
ORIGINAL EDITION, PRODUCED BY MICROFILM-XEROGRAPHY \\\
UNIVKRSITY MICROFILMS. INC., ANN ARBOR. MICHIGAN, 1%J
YALE STUDIES IN ENGLISH
ALBERT S. COOK, EDITOR
RELATION TO HER TIME
CLARA FRANCES ftrtcINTYRE
Associate Professor in the University of Wyoming
A Dissertation presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School
of Yale University in Candidacy for the Degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
NEW HAVEN: YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS
LONDON: HUMPHREY MILFORD
OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS
Ann Radcliffe is among the authors who are spoken of
with a certain degree of familiarity, but of whom little is
really known. When her name is mentioned, people say,
glibly, 'Ann Radcliffe? Oh, yes. The Mysteries of
Udolpho f But when questioned further, many of them are
obliged to admit that even of her most famous books they
know only a few pages quoted by other writers, Her
importance as a literary influence we find accepted without
dispute in most discussions of eighteenth- and nineteenth-
century literature, especially those which have to do with the
novel. But Ann Radcliffe in herself, as a literary figure of
real significance and power, has received scant justice.
There has been little attempt to establish definitely her place
among her contemporaries; there has hardly been a
thorough and consistent working-out of her influence upon
later writers, although in that direction more has been done.
The one full and carefully critical treatment of Mrs.
Radcliffe is still to be found in Sir Walter Scott's essay,
which first appeared shortly after her death, as one of the
prefaces in Ballantyne's Novelists' Library, and was after-
ward published in the collection called Lives of the Novelists.
Among more modern works which give some considerable
attention to Mrs. Radcliffe may be mentioned Professor
Beers' English Romanticism in the Eighteenth Century; a
doctoral thesis entitled The Gothic Romance: its Origin
and Development, by Elizabeth Church, written at Radcliffe
College in 1913, and as yet unpublished; a thesis by Joseph
Brey, Die Natttrschilderungen in den Romanen und Ge-
dichten der Mrs. Ann Radcliffe, nebst einem Rilckblick
auf die Entwickelung der Naturschilderung im Englischen
4 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
Romane des 18. Jahrhunderts;1 The Gothic Romance, by
Hans Mobius;2 and a study of Englische Romankunst, by
Most of these works consider mainly Mrs. Radcliffe's
influence upon others. It has seemed that there was perhaps
room for a more thorough investigation than has hitherto
been made of her actual place among her contemporaries;
that it might be worth while to see what her readers and
fellow-writers thought about her, and to decide, as far as
possible, what part of her work was original, and what was
derived from others.
The present study has several definite aims. In the first
place, it attempts to put into clear and accessible form what
can be discovered concerning Mrs. Radcliffe's life. It takes
up her work from several points of view, considering the
sources from which she drew material; the popularity of
her books, as shown by contemporary estimates, especially
in leading magazines of her day, and by the numerous
translations and dramatizations which were made; and a
somewhat neglected aspect of her contribution to the novel —
her modification of its structure.
The most interesting thing about the study has been its
revelation of the really .important place which this almost
forgotten author held in the literary judgment of her gen-
eration. She was_pra,ised jiot only Jjyjthe general crowd
of fiction-readers, huL-by-^ men who made a profession of
criticizing literature, andjvho had a sense of literary values.
An examination of the magazines of the late eighteenth
century shows us that in her own day she occupied con-
stantly and triumphantly the chief place in public favor.
She was referred to as the Great Enchantress, and it was
perhaps because Scott was recognized as in a sense her
1 Munich, 1908.
' Palestra, Vol. 92, Berlin, 1910.
successor that his more powerful spells won for him the
title of the Wizard of the North. Even he did not at once
take precedence of Mrs. Radcliffe, and, great though the
interest was which he aroused, it does not seem to have
been universally recognized that a distinctly superior power
had appeared. Henry Crabb Robinson, writing of Wav-
erley in 1815,* balances the merits of the two writers as if
he accepted them as equals:
The author's sense- of the romantic and picturesque is not so
delicate, or his execution so powerful, as Mrs. Radcliffe's, but
his paintings of men and manners are more valuable. The inci-
dents are not so dexterously contrived, and the author has not
'produced a very interesting personage in his hero, Waverley,
who, as his name was probably intended to indicate, is ever
hesitating between two kings and two mistresses.
Scott, in his own judgment of Mrs. Radcliffe, is both
generous and discriminating:
f It may be true, that Mrs. Radcliffe rather walks in fairy-land
than in the region of realities, and that she has neither displayed
the command of the human passions, nor the insight into the
human heart, nor the observation of life and manners, which
recommend other authors in the same line. But, she has taken
the lead in a line of composition, appealing^totn^e^poliveirful
and general sources of interest, a latent sense of supernatural
awe, and curiosity concerning whatever is hidden and mysteri-
ous; and if she has beeii ever- nearly .approached in. this walk,
which we should hesitate to affirm, it is at least certain that
she has never been excelled or even equalled.1
One of whom Scott could speak in such terms, one who
was largely responsible for a literary type, which has not
entirely ceased its influence even down to our own time,
certainly has some claim to consideration. We have hardly
the right to dismiss her with a patronizing smile, and a
joking reference to subterranean passages, long-suffering
maidens, vanishing lights, and creaking doors.
* Diary i. 304.
* Lives of the Novelists , p. 244.
FACTS OF MRS. RADCLIFFE'S LIFE
The title of this chapter is chosen advisedly. We know
a few plain, bald facts about Ann RadclifFe's experience in
the world, and that is all we know. The whole range of her
personality and relationships we can get only by inference
or imagination. She did not, as some authors have done,
leave letters and diaries which reveal her friendships, her
tastes, and her ideals. The journals which she did keep
record her impressions of external things, rather than her
It is extraordinary that any one who occupied so con-
spicuous a place in the literary world could have kept her
personal affairs so completely away from public observation.
A writer in the Edinburgh Review (38. 360, note) for May,
1823, makes the following comment on Mrs. Radcliffe :
The fair authoress kept herself almost as much incognito [sic]
as the Author of Waverley; nothing was known of her but her
name on the title page. She never appeared in public, nor
mingled in private society, but kept herself apart, like the sweet
bird that sings its solitary notes, shrowded and unseen.
In truth, her anonymity, though in one sense less com- •
plete than Scott's, was more persistent. Her name, indeed,
appeared upon the title-page, but to most of her readers
the name revealed Clothing. Her private life and her
authorship were to her, evidently, two entirely separate
things, and in those days there were no interviewers suffi-
ciently daring to make the one an excuse for- intruding upon
The few facts which give us our only definite hold on
Ann Radcliffe as a person are found in the Annual Biog-
Facts df Mrs. Radcliffe's Life 1
raphy and Obituary for I824.1 It is this account which is
made use of by Scott in the Lives of the Novelists, by Mrs.
Kavanagh in the English Women of Letters, and by Tal-
fourd in the memoir prefixed to Gaston de Blondeville.
Part of the information furnished here, it seems likely, is
quoted directly from Mr. Radcliffe himself, for the author
of the memoir says he went to the person best qualified to
speak of Mrs. Radcliffe, and that would naturally have been
'her husband. Although this biographical sketch has been
used by the writers just mentioned, a portion of it may be
repeated here, as it is the most authoritative statement that
we have of Ann Radcliffe's ancestry :
She was born inLondon, in the^ year J£64; the daughter of
WilTijtiiTand AnjTWard. wlioTlHough mjraderwere nearly the
only persons of their two families not living in handsome, or at
least easy indeRejQiJ^Jice. Her paternal grandmother was a
Cheselden, the sister of the celebrated surgeon of whose kind
regard her father had a grateful recollection, and some of
whose presents, in books, I have seen. The late Lieutenant
Colonel Cheselden, of Somerby in Leicestershire, was, I think,
another nephew of the surgeon. Her father's aunt, the late
Mrs. Harwell, first of Leicester, and then of Duffield in Derby-
shire, was one of the sponsors at her baptism. Her maternal
grandmother was Ann Gates, the sister of Dr. Samuel Jebb of
Stratford, who was father of Sir Richard : on that side she
was also related to Dr. Halifax, Bishop of Gloucester, and to
Dr. Halifax, Physician to the King. Perhaps it may gratify
curiosity to state further, that she was descended from a near
relative of the DeWitts of Holland. In some family papers
which I have seen, it is stated that a DeWitt, of the family of
John and Cornelius, came to England, under the patronage of
government, upon some design of draining the fens in Lin-
colnshire, bringing with him a daughter, Amelia, then an infant
The prosecution of the plan is supposed to have been interrupted
by the rebellion, in the time of Charles the First; but DeWitt
appears to have passed the remainder of his life in a mansion
near Hull, and to have left many children, of whom Amelia was
the mother of one of Mrs. Radcliffe's ancestors.'
* Annual Biography and Obituary 8. 98.
8 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
This passage perhaps shows an innocent desire on Mr.
Radcliffe's part to emphasize the importance of his wife's
family, but it does certainly tell us that she came of honor-
able stock. A little further on, we have the account of
some of the advantages which she enjoyed in her childhood.
Besides that a great part of her youth had been passed in
the residences of her superior relatives, she had the advantage
of being much loved, when a child, by the late Mr. Bentley;
to whom, on the establishment of the fabric known by the name
of Wedgwood and Bentley's, was -appropriated the superinten-
dence of all that related to form and design. Mr, Wedgwood
was the intelligent man of 'commerce, and the able chemist;
Mr. Bentley the man of more general literature, and of taste
in the arts. One of her mother's sisters was married to Mr.
Bentley; and, during the life of her aunt, who was accom-
plished 'according to the moderation'— ;may I say, the wise
moderation? — of that day, the little niece was a favorite guest
at Chelsea, and afterwards at Turnham Green, where Mr. and
Mrs. Bentley resided. At their house she saw several, persons
of distinction for literature; and others who, without having
been so distinguished, were beneficial objects of attention for
their minds and their manners. Of the former class the late
Mrs. Montague, and once, I think, Mrs. Piozzi; of the latter,
Mrs. Ord. The gentleman called Athenian Stuart was also a
This passage would seem to involve us in a slight dif-
ficulty. Thomas Bentley married in 1754 Miss Hannah
Gates, of Sheffield.1 . She died two years after this mar-
riage, and he afterward married Mary Stamford, of Derby.
It would have been impossible for Ann Ward to make visits
'during the life of her aunt/ as the latter died eight years
before Ann was born. According to Eliza Meteyard, how-
ever, an elder sister of Hannah Gates kept house for her
brother-in-law from the death of his first wife to his second
marriage in 1772, and apparently, even after the second
marriage, spent considerable time in his household. Miss
1 Meteyard, Life of Joseph Wedgwood i. 305; 2. 258.
Facts of Mrs. Radcliffe's Life 9
Meteyard adds, 'A niece seems also to have occasionally
resided with them/1 and again she remarks, 'Nor was child-
hood absent from that pleasant home, with its fine gardens,
its environing fields, and the 'great silent highway* flowing
near. A little niece of either Miss Gates or Mr. Bentley
passed much of her time at Chelsea.'2
I have called attention to this rather small point because,
if Ann Ward was the 'little niece1 mentioned here, the fact
gives valuable testimony as to her early lOpportunitiesi
Mr. Bentley was, from all accounts, not only a man of busi-
ness, but possessed of wide culture. Miss Meteyard speaks
of his popularity and his courtliness of manner, and men-
tions many people of prominence in literary and scientific
work whom he counted among his friends. He himself
contributed articles to the Gentleman's Magazine and the
Monthly Review, and Wedgwood, in one of his letters, re-
proaches him for not publishing a manuscript on female
education.3 He was evidently able to introduce his niece
to a circle interested in literature and art, a society which
must have been most stimulating to a young girl of quick
intelligence ; and he probably took an active interest in her
development. Her biographer is certainly right in calling
her intimacy with the Bentley family an advantage.
Mr. Bentley died in 1780, when Ann was sixteen. For
the last three years of his life, his residence was at Turnham
Green. It was in 1774 that he left his Chelsea home; if
his niece visited him there, it must have been when she was
only a child.
So far as her formal education is concerned, we are able
to learn little. The general impression given by her biog-
raphers is that it was the ordinary education of the yomg
girl of that day, and that, according to modern ideas, it
* Ibid. i. 305.
1 Ibid. 2. 172.
' Julia Wedgwood, Personal Life of Josiah Wedgwood, p. 48.
io Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
would seem, if Jot superficial, decidedly incomplete. Mrs.
Kavanagh speaks of her education as 'plain/ and adds1 :
Had Ann Radcliffe been John Radcliffe, ard received the
vigorous and polished education which marks the man and the
gentleman, we might have a few novels less, but we would
assuredly have some fine pages more in that language where,
spite their merit, her works will leave no individual trace.
From Mrs. RadcliftVs own work we might, perhaps, be
inclined to give her credit for rather more knowledge than
this comment implies. Her references to authors, both in
her journals and in her novels, show not only thorough
familiarity but genuine appreciation, and the quotations
which she uses as headings to her chapters suggest a con-
siderable range of reading. Mrs. Elwood, in her Memoirs
of Literary Ladies, gives, on the authority of an unnamed
contemporary who spent an evening with Mrs. Radcliffe,
the statement that she was a great admirer of Schiller's
Robbers, and that her favorite tragedy was Macbeth. Her
favorite painters were Salvator, Claude, and Caspar Pous-
sin. Her favorite poets after Shakespeare were Tasso,
Milton, and Spenser. Whether she had a knowledge of any
language other than her own seems uncertain. The writer
of the sketch in the Annual Biography and Obituary, before
quoted, speaks of her 'gratification in listening to any good
verbal sounds'; and says that she 'would desire to hear
passages repeated from the Latin and Greek classics; re-
quiring, at intervals, the most literal translations that could
be given, with all that was possible of their idiom, how nu.ch
soever the version might be embarrassed by that aim at
exactness.' This would make it appear that she had no
understanding of the originals. In her Journey Through
Holland, however, she twice makes use of a Latin quotation,
with considerable aptness, and, moreover, in an incidental
way which makes it seem probable that the words were
familiar to her. In one case1 the reference is to Lucretius :
1 English Women of 'Letters, p. 255.
* Journey 2. 272.
Facts of Mn. Radclifft's Life n
We returned to our low-roofed habitation, where, cs the wind
swept in hollow gusts along the mountains and strove against
our casements, the crackling blaze of a wood fire lighted up the
cheerfulness, which, so long since as Juvenal's [sic] time, has
been allowed to arise from the contrast of ease against difficulty.
Suave mart magno, turbantlbus aequora
• In the other passage she refers to Tacitus,' mentioning"
'the fine speech, beginning, Nunquant apud vos verba fed,
out pro vobis solicitior, aut pro me securior; a passage so
near to the cunctisque timentewi, securumque sui, by which
Lucan describes Cato, that it must be supposed to have been
inspired by it."
Of course it is quite possible that these writings were
known to Mrs. Radcliffe only in translation, and that she
had her husband's aid in finding the originals, but in that
case it seems almost strange that she did not make her
acknowledgment of his assistance more general, since she
scrupulously makes mention of the fact that he is responsible
for the political observations in the book.
It must be admitted that the whole question of Mrs. Rad-
cliffe's early education remains largely a matter of con-
jecture. One of her French biographers* remarks, 'Elle
rec,ut une education distinguee,' but he gives no details in
support of his statement. The fact that in 1781 the Misses
Sophia and Harriet Lee opened their school for young ladies
at Bath suggests a reasonable source for her early training,
and that she may have been a pupil in the school seems pos-
sible from a comment in the obituary notice of Sophia Lee
in the Annual Register for i824.5 No records of this school
are extant, however; so it «s impossible to know whether
1 Lucretius 2. i.
* Journey i. 124.
* Arnault, Biographic Nouvelle des Contemporains, Vol. 17.
'66. 217: 'It is to be remarked that Mrs. Radcliffe (then Miss
Ward), resident at Bath, and acquainted in Miss Lee's family,
though too young to have appeared herself as a writer, was among
the warmest admirers of "The Recess."'
12 • Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
Miss Ward's name appeared upon the roll of pupils. About
all the conclusions we are justified in drawing are these: \
that she had read rather widely, both in older and in more (
modern authors ; that she knew something of art and music ; '
and that, among her own relatives and connections, she had
the advantage of intelligent and refined society.
In 1787, at the age of twenty-three, Ann Ward married
Wil!la5Lj5^£li%iA^aipale of Oxford .J^ftd a student of
law.1 Mr. Radcliffe did not, however, complete his legal
studies; he turned, instead, to journalism, and became the
proprietor and editor of the English Chronicle. He seems,
also, to have had general literary interests, apart 'from his
editorial duties. In the Monthly Review for June, 1790,
appears a review of 'A Journey through Siveden. Written
in French by a Dutch Officer and translated into English by
William Radcliffe, A.B. of Oriel College, Oxford ;' and in
the same magazine for September, 1790, is a review of The
Natural History of East Tartary, translated by the same
author. There is no further description, to show whether
this is the William Radcliffe who married Ann Ward, but
the exact correspondence of the name and title with those
given in the marriage-notice makes it seem probable.
Marriage, with Ann Ward, seems to have meant not the
ending, but the beginning, of a career. In the scanty bio-
graphical treatments of Mrs. Radcliffe which we possess,
1 Mr. R. W. M. Wright, sub-librarian of the Victoria Art Gallery
and Reference Library, Bath, furnished me with the following
Entry in Parish Register of St. Michaels Church,
Jan. 15" 1787. William Radcliffe Bachelor w.. William Waxd
Anne Ward Spinster Rose Forbes
Bath Chronicle, Thurs., Jany 18, 1787.
Monday, was married at St Michaels Church the Rev William
Radcliffe A. B. of Oriel College, Oxford, to Miss Ward, daughter
of Mr. Ward, of Milsom Street.
Facts of Mrs. Radcliffe's Life 13
one statement is made emphatic, that she was encouraged to
her writing — urged to it, in fact — by her husband. We
. are even told that on their journeys she was always equipped
with a number of notebooks in which she wrote her impres-
sions of the scenery, and that Mr. Radcliffe amused himself
by reading what she had written. To enjoy reading about
scenery, when in the presence of the scenery itself, certainly
implies either devotion on the part of the reader, or charm
on the part of the writer. In this case both probably existed
to a considerable degree.
Mrs. Radcliffe's first book, The Castles of Athlin and
Dunbayne, was published two years after her marriage, a
short review of it appearing in the Critical Review for
September, I789.1 It was published anonymously, as were
the first editions of A Sicilian Romance , in 1791, and The
Romance of the Forest, in 1792. It was not until the second
edition of the latter book that the author's name appeared
on the title-page, The Romance of the Forest completely
established the reputation of the author, whose second book
had attracted much more favorable comment than the first.
The Mysteries of Udolpho, in 1794, made her the most
popular writer of the day. This was followed, in 1795, by
A Journey Made in the Summer of 119$, through Holland
and the Western Frontier of Germany, with a Return down
the Rhine: to which are added Observations during a Tour
to the Lakes of Lancashire, Westmoreland and Cumberland.
The Italian, in 1796, completes the list of works published
during Mrs. Radcliffe's lifetime.
Further discussion of her work and its reception will be
given later. Here it will suffice to say that at the time
The Italian appeared, probably no author was so generally
admired and so eagerly read as this young woman, who had
begun writing, we are told, to pass away the winter evenings
when her husband was away at his work, and who, a first,
any way, took her productions much less seriously tha*i he.
1 68, 251.
14 Ann Raddiffe in Relation to Her Time
With this we come to the end of Mrs. Radcliffe's pro-
ductive period, and to the consideration of a puzzling
question. Why, at the early age of thirty-two, at the
hejghfLjof_her fame, did she suddenly lay down her pen, and,
except for some poems, and an experimenTTnT historical
romance which she apparently had no intention of publish-
ing, never take it up again ?
No one of the answers that have been offered is wholly
satisfying. Perhaps a combination of all the answers might
yield greater satisfaction. One suggestion, is that she was
grieved over unfavorable comments on The Italian. It is
true that some-reviewers "spoke :jof Jjie book as falling short
of The Mysteries of Udolphofand even The Romance of the
Forest; but others praised it as surpassing the earlier works,
and none of the reviews was sufficiently scathing to dis-
: courage even a highly sensitive author. Another theory is
that she was disgusted by the many absurd productions
| which tried to win popularity. by imitation of her. There
seems to be rather more plausibility .n this. A lady of any
literary conscience might well have a sense of guilt at being
responsible for such a following. It may even be that, hav-
ing seen the reductio ad absurditm of her method, she came
to distrust the method itself, and lost the inclination to carry
i it further. A more personal reason for her cessation of
activity is furnished by her biographers in the fact that she
received a legacy which made her pecuniarily independent,
and therefore removed any temptation to write for gain.
In connection with the -pecuniary side of Mrs. Radcliffe's
writing, a passage in the Annual Biography and Obituary is
Some exaggeration has taken place with respect to the pecu-
niary advantages which Mrs. Radcliffe derived from her talents.
For instance, it has been said, that she received ioco£ from the
Messrs. Robinsons, for the copy-right of 'The Mysteries of
Uuolpho.' The real amount was soo£; at that time so unusually
large a sum for a work of imagination, that old Mr. Cadell,
Facts of Mrs. RadcliffSs Life 15
than whom no man was more experienced in such matters, when
he was told that soa£ had been given, offered a wager of io£
that it was not the fact. It has also been said, that Mrs. Rad-
cliffe received isoo£ for the copyright of The Italians.' [sic]
The real amount did not exceed 8oo£
Although we have no suggestion that, in her early mar-
ried life, Mrs. Radcliffe was in particular need of money, it
is probable that these extra sums were welcome. Later on,
when private resources made possible more indulgenceslrT
the way of entertainment and travel, and when, perhaps,
her husband had more time to enjoy these things with her,
there was less temptation to put her fancies into salable
Aside from the list of her publications, we find the chief
record of Mrs. Radcliffe's life in the journeys that she made.
Even without this record, we could almost infer her love of
traveling from her books/ Mrs. Kavanagh remarks that
, her heroes and heroines are always going on journeys. In
• this, it is true, she was following to some extent the tradition
; of the novel. But in the older novels the chief aim of the
hero's travels was to expose him continually to new adven-
tures. With Mrs. Radcliffe there is a second aim — to
describe the changing scenery, and to show its effect upon
In spite of her love of travel, Mrs. Radcliffe was not, on
the whole, a journeyer in far places. Her one experience
of the Continent was the trip through Holland and western
. Germany, mentioned before. The intention of the travelers
to go on into Switze'rland was frustrated by a disobliging
official, who refused to believe that they were English, and
would not honor their passports.
How little was accurately known of Mrs. Radcliffe, even
in her own time, is shown by the following statement in the
Edinburgh "Review for May, 1823* :
1 38. 360, note.
1 6 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
The Editor of the Englishman for many years was a Mr.
Radcliffe. He had been formerly Cached to some of our
embassies into Italy, where his lady accompanied him ; and here
she imbibed that taste for picturesque scenery, and the obscure
and wild superstitions of mouldering castles, of which she has
made so beautiful a use in her Romances.
Scott corrects this statement, but draws an inference of
his own which seems hardly less mistaken:
In 1793, Mrs. Radcliffe had the advantage of visiting the
scenery of the Rhine, and, although we are not positive of the
fact, we are strongly inclined to suppose that The Mysteries of
Udolpho were written, or at least corrected, after the date of
this journey; for the mouldering castles of the robber-chivalry
of Germany, situated on the wild and romantic banks of that
celebrated stream, seem to have given a bolder flight to her
imagination, and a more glowing character to her colouring,
than are exhibited in The Romance of the Forest. . . . Her
remarks upon these countries were given to the public in 1794,
in a very well-written work, entitled A Journey through Hoi"
Unfortunately for Scott's theory, the very title of the
book to which he refers contradicts it. It is A Journey
Made in the Summer of 1794, and the first announcement
of its publication is found in the London Chronicle for
May i, 1795. The first notice of The Mysteries of Udolpho
appeared £n, M^y«l£L»l2!24- ^ seems impossible", therefore,
that the castles of the Rhine could have had anything to
do with Mrs. RadclifiVs famous description of the Castle
of Udolpho. It must remain a product o.f her imagination,
assisted by her reading.
After this one longer expedition, Mrs. Radcliffe's travels
were confined to her own country. We have mention of a
tour round the coast of Kent in 1797. In 1798 she visited
Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight; in 1800, the coast of
Sussex; in 1801, the New Forest and the Isle of Wight.
The journey in 1802 is of especial interest. In that year
1 Lives of the Novelists, p. 215.
Facts of Mrs. Radcliffe's Life 17
she visited Leicester and Warwick, Kenilworth, Oxford,
and Woodstock ; and the trip to Kenilworth was the evident
inspiration of Gaston de Blondeville, which was written
shortly after, but was not published until after her death.
The latest journey of any length which we find recorded was
one to Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight, in the autumn of
1811. In her later years, she and her husband gave up the
more distant excursions, and hired a carriage for the 'sum-
mer months, so that they might make trips to attractive
places near London.
The seclusion of Mrs. Radcliffe's life led, naturally, to
many misunderstandingsjwid. false reports. One source of
confusion was that during her lifetime several books ap-
peared under names very similar to hers. The British
Museum Catalogue has Mary Ann Radcliffe of Kennington
Cross, author of The Memoirs of Mrs. M. A. Radcliffe in
familiar letters to her female friend, and The Female Advo-
cate, or an attempt to recover the rights of women from male
usurpation; . Mary Anne Radcliffe, author of M an f rone; or
the One-handed Monk; and Ann Sophia Radcliffe, author
of The Ladies Elegant Jester; or, Fun for the Female Sex.
The first of these books probably helped to strengthen the
belief in Mrs. Radcliffe's death which her long silence
seemed to support. Mention of the book appears in the
Monthly List of Publications of the British Critic for Feb-
ruary, iSii.1 The Critic for August, 1812, has the follow-
ing comment on it8 :
We at first sight promised ourselves and our readers also,
much satisfaction from presenting Memoirs of the very ingen-
ious and much lamented Mrs. Radcliffe, compiled by herself,
but it seems that the lady here commemorated is, or rather was,
a very different personage. Whether the Tale is real or ficti-
tious is not declared, but the reader will find a narrative by no
means il! written, of an unfortunate individual, whose life
1 37- 205.
1 8 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
exhibits a useful moral, and lessons of important caution to
the thoughtless of her own sex. Some agreeable specimens of
poetry are interspersed, and the volume is introduced by a very
highly respectable list of subscribers.
It is sometimes inferred that the writers of these books
were masquerading under names assumed with the delib-
erate intention of profiting by an established reputation.
This would hardly seem to be true in the case of The Female
Advocate; for the author, in the introduction, apologizing
for her daring in undertaking such a performance, says,
'a first attempt, surrounded by all the disadvantages peculiar
to the sex, seems to her, to require no small share of courage,
and which, indeed, nothing but the importance of the subject
should have induced her to encounter/ If she had been
posing as the Ann Radcliffe of the novels, she would hardly,
writing in 1799, have spoken of her effort as 'a first attempt.'
Manfronc; or the One-handed Monk is an undeniable
imitation of Mrs. Radcliffe's novels. The opening is a hash
of Radcliffian details : we have a large, dark apartment with
flickering light, a girl who has been perusing a gloomy tale,
and, feeling a presentiment of evil, is about to summon her
maid to spend the night with her, when she is interrupted
by a startling adventure, in the midst of which, 'quite in the
fashion of Mrs. Radcliffe's heroines, she faints away.
There are many other resemblances throughout the book.
But the feeble descriptions of nature could hardly be mis-
taken for Mrs. Radcliffe's, and there are slips in grammar
of which she would not be guilty. We find the book at-
tributed to her, however, in some of the discussions of her
work, and this mistake was undoubtedly far from helpful
• to her reputation. In one of the accounts of her which j *
appeared after her cleath1 we are told that 'the imitations of '
her style and manner by various literary adventurers, the/
publication of sortie other • novels under a name slightly!
1 Portfolio 16. 137.
Facts of Mrs. Radcliffe's Life 19
varied for the purpose of imposing on the public, and the
flippant use of the term "Radcliffe school," by scribblers
of all classes, tended altogether to disgust her with the
world, and create a depression of spirits, which led for many
years, in a considerable degree to seclude her from society.'
When Manfrone appeared, however, in 1809, it was already
more than ten years since Mrs. Radcliffe had written any-
thing for publication; so that it cannot bear much of the
responsibility for her seclusion. : .
The^ report, of Mrs, Kajdcliffe's death was .ngt_ihe_only
one which gained public credence; there was also a story
that excessive use of her imagination in representing ex-
travagant and violent scenes had driven her insane, and
that she was ending her days in an asylum. This rumor
was so persistent that in the memoir prefixed to Gaston^e
Blondeville was included a statement from her physician in
regard to her mental condition during the last part of her
life. That this statement was the outcome of some bitter-
ness of feeling appears from a passage in the review of her
posthumous works in the Monthly Review for July, i826l :
There is one part of Mrs. Radcliffe's life upon which we
should have abstained from offering a single remark, if a passage
in the memoir had not made it incumbent on us to say a word
or two in our own vindication. In a former number of this
journal1 after pointing out an error as to a date in Sir Walter
Scott's memoir of that lady, we stated, from authority upon
which we had every reason to rely, that 'she died in a state of
mental desolation not to be described.' It was no part of our
object to wound the feelings of any of her surviving friends,
particularly not of Mr. Radcliffe, for whom we entertain great
respect. But the fact formed a part of the literary history of
the country, and, if our information were correct, we saw no
reason why it should be suppressed. Not content, however, with
denying its truth, Mr. Radcliffe, or some person by his authority,
charged us, in the public prints, with impropriety in making such
•*N. S.2. 280,
"Former Series 108. 269,
20 Ann Rddcliffe in Relation to Her Time
a statement, and that charge is repeated in a document drawn up
and signed by Dr. Scudamore, and inserted in the memoir now
before us. That we may not be accused of garbling it we shall
here present the whole of that document to the reader.
'Mrs. Radcliffe had been for several years subject to severe
catarrhal coughs, and also was occasionally afflicted with asthma.
'In March, 1822, she was ill with inflammation of the lungs, and
for a considerable time remained much indisposed. With the
summer season and change of air, she regained a tolerable
state of health.
'In the early parjof January, iS^^^c^n^e^uence^ofjexposure
to cold^^e_w^s^ag^^atta^c1ce(r"witii inflampTallQnjB^
and much more severely than before. Active treatment was
immediately adopted, but without the desired relief ; and the
symptoms soon assumed a most dangerous character. At the
end of three weeks, however, and contrary to all expectations,
the inflammation of the lungs was overcome ; and the amend-
ment was so decided, as to present a slight prospect of recovery,
'Alas! our hopes were soon disappointed. Suddenly, in the
very moment of seeming calm from the previous violence of
disease, a new inflammation seized the membranes of the brain.
The enfeebled frame could not resist this fresh assault: so
rapid in their course were the violent symptoms, that medical
treatment proved wholly unavailing.
'In the space of three days death closed the melancholy scene. '
'In this manner, at the age of fifty-nine, society was deprived
of a most amiable and valuable member, and literature one of
its brightest ornaments.
'The foregoing statement will, I hope, afford all the explana-
tion, which can be required, of the nature of Mrs. Radcliffe's
illness. During the whole continuance of the inflammation of
the lungs, the mind was perfect in its reasoning powers, and
became disturbed only on the last two or three days, as a natural
consequence of the inflammation affecting the membranes of the
'Previously to the last illness, and at all times, Mrs. Rad-
cliffe enjoyed a remarkably cheerful state of mind; and no one
was farther removed from "mental desolation," as has been
so improperly described of the latter part of her life.
'She possessed a quick sensibility, as the necessary ally of 'her
fine genius ; but this quality would serve to increase the warmth
of the social feelings, and effectually prevent the insulation of
Facts of Mrs. Radcliffe's Life ai
the mind, either as regards the temper or the understanding/ —
Memoir, pp. 103-105.
It will be seen that this document, instead of contradicting
our statement, confirms it in the most pointed manner. We did
not speak generally of the latter part of Mrs. Radcliffe's life as
clouded by 'mental desolation,' as Dr. Scudamore has been taught
to suppose; we distinctly said that she died in that unhappy
state, and for this fact we need no further evidence than his
own description of the melancholy close of her existence. We
have been reluctantly drawn into this explanation, and we now
quit the subject.
Mrs, J&adcliff e died on February 7, 1823. Her obituary-
notices all agree in praise of her work, and in very meagre
information about her life. The publication of her posthu-
mous works, in 1826, seemed to cause a considerable revival
of interest in her, and some of the best criticisms of her
work are found in reviews of these volumes^ She was
buried in the cemetery belonging to St. George's, Hanover
Square. This burial-ground, on the Bayswater Road, near
Hyde Park, is the one which contains the grave of Lawrence
A life-history which consists of only bare facts is an in-
complete and unsatisfactory thing. Although, as nas been
said, we find little recorded of Mrs. Radcliffe except facts,
and very few of those, there are suggestions here and there
which may help us to construct a personality.
For her personal appearance we have to rely upon the
writer of the sketch in the Annual Biography and Obituary:
This admirable writer, whom I remember from about the
time of her twentieth year, was, in her youth, of a figure ex-
quisitely proportioned ; while she resembled her father, and his
brother and sister, in being low of stature. Her complexion was
beautiful, as was her whole countenance, especially her eyes,
eyebrows, and mouth.
1 For information in regard to this I am indebted to Professor
Wilbur L. Cress, of Yale University, who remembers seeing a stone
to Mrs. Radcliffe near the grave of Sterne.
22 Ann Rqdcliffe in Relation to Her Time
If it be true that Mr. Radcliffe was the author of the
sketch, we should perhaps make some allowance for senti-
ment in this description. But he at least does not try to
show her as endowed with all the graces, for he says she was
rather shy in company: 'She had not the confidence and
presence of mind without which, a person conscious of being
observed, can scarcely be at ease, except in long-tried so-
ciety/ Her fondness for music we could have inferred
from her books, if he had not told us of it. ^Jusic_plays a
prominent part in all the novels, and her heroines, through
whatever vicissitudes they may pass, always cling to their
Two incidents which he relates seem to show an extreme
sensitiveness in Mrs. Radcliffe — indeed, one might say,
Miss Anna Seward, in a letter written May 2i, 1799,*
discussing The Plays on the Passions, made this remark:
'Before their author was known, I observed so much of the
power and defects of Mrs. Radcliffe's compositions in these
dramas, as to believe them hers ; and I hear she owns them.'
In two or three subsequent letters, Miss Seward went on to
discuss the plays, still attributing them to Mrs. Radcliffe.
It was not until October 7 that she owned herself mistaken.
'My literary friends now assert that they are not Mrs. Rad-
cliffe's.'2 According to Mrs. Radcliffe's biographer, the
imputation that she could claim the credit for work which
did not belong to her was the cause of great grief and worry.
She tried to get into touch with the Mrs. Jackson whom
Miss Seward had quoted as having first informed her that
Mrs. Radcliffe owned the plays, but could find out nothing
Thus the subject was dropped; for to Miss Baillie herself
Mrs. Radcliffe could address nothing but protestations, which
* Letters 5. 226.
* Ibid., p. 253.
Facts of Mrs. Radcliffe' s Life 23
could not prove a negative, and which might be held intrusive;
as there was no reason to suppose that that lady had ever
credited the report . . .
I have been tedious upon this subject, but it was a great one
with the deceased; and if it be possible that her spirit, now,
as I humbly hope, beatified, can know what is passing here,
may this asseveration of her innocence, solemnly made on her
behalf, be one of its feeblest gratifications.*
The other matter which had troubled Mrs. Radcliffe was
a note added to one of Mrs. Carter's letters, which stated
that 'Mrs. Carter had no personal acquaintance with Mrs.
Radcliffe.1 Mrs. Radcliffe's biographer remarks in regard
to this :
This is strictly true; but as the remark may be misunder-
stood to imply that Mrs. Carter had rejected, or avoided, or
would have rejected, or avoided, that acquaintance, it cannot
be improper to show that she had in some measure sought it
The following short correspondence is sufficient upon the
'If Mrs. Radcliffe is not engaged, Mrs. Carter will have the
pleasure of calling upon her about twelve o'clock to-morrow
'Mrs. Radcliffe is extremely sorry that an engagement to go
into the country to-morrow, for some time, on account of Mr.
R.'s state of health, which is very critical, will deprive her of
« the honour intended her by Mrs. Carter ; for which she requests
Mrs. C. to believe that she has a full and proper respect.'
There is no date to either of these notes ; but that of Mrs.
Carter enclosed the following letter:
Bath, April i8th, 1799,
I venture to give you this trouble, at the request of Mrs.
Carter, whose admirable talents, and far more admirable virtues,
are too well known to need any introduction from me. She
very much wishes to have the pleasure of knowing you; and
will deliver this letter, if she has the good fortune of finding
you at home. As I am persuaded the acquaintance must afford
mutual satisfaction, I could not refuse the request with which
1 Annual Biography and Obituary 8. 103.
24 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
Mrs. Carter honoured me ; though it is made on the supposition
of my having some degree of interest with you, to which I have
no claim, except from the very sincere admiration I have ever
felt for your talents, and the regard and esteem with which
I am, dear Madam,
Your obliged and affectionate humble servant,
H. M. Bowdler.
P.S. If Mrs. Carter does not deliver this letter herself, she
will, I believe, take an early opportunity of waiting on you,
with a very amiable friend of mine, Miss Shipley, who has
promised to carry her in her carriage.
It certainly shows some excess of sensitiveness to read
into the statement that Mrs. Carter did not know Mrs. Rad-
cliffe the idea that Mrs. Carter did not wish to know Mrs.
Radcliffe. These two instances rather incline us to believe
that our author possessed something of what is commonly
and indefinitely known as 'the artistic temperament.' They
also incline us to wonder whether this extreme sensitiveness
may not account for her withdrawal from the world. This
withdrawal has been differently interpreted, jeaffreson
says of her1:
Leading a life of domestic seclusion, and especially avoiding
those circles where rank loftily patronizes literary celebrity, and
mock-genius fawns slavishly on fashion, circles into which a
paltry vanity too often allures the best authors, Mrs. Radcliffe
was utterly unknown to the thousands of English who, in
London and in the country, were burning to learn something
The writer of a review jn the Literary^ Gazette2 takes a
less kindly view :
She was ashamed, (yes, ashamed) of her own talents; and
was ready to sink in tne earth at the bare suspicion of any one
taking her for an author ; her chief ambition being to be thought
1 Novels and Novelists, p. 3.
'June 3, 1826.
Facts of Mrs. Radcliffe's Life 25
It seems probable that Mrs. Radcliffe's feeling was not
one of silly vanity, but rather of honest pride. She was not
willing to climb into society by means of her literary achieve-
ments, if she was not considered worthy in other respects.
We must remember that it was not long since the days when
every literary man must have his noble patron, when it was
considered perfectly allowable for a Chesterfield to snub a
Johnson., Eliza Meteyard, speaking of the Wedgwoods,
Mr. Josiah Wedgwood was pricked as sheriff for Dorset-
shire in 1803, and his year of office was a comparatively bril-
liant one in county annals. But, generally speaking, the family
led a quiet and retired life. Indeed, on the evidence of those
still living, it was never very cordially accepted by the proud
old local gentry, full of obsolete notions concerning birth and
pedigree. Nature's noble rank, the only rank; the possession
of a name which needed only time and knowledge to become
historic ; the possession of great wealth, and its intelligent and
charitable use — were nothing with a generation whose notions
of pedigree began with the Conquest, and thence must have
due record in parchment rolls and title-deeds. • To be in trade,
or to possess wealth derived from trade, was then a sufficient
blot on any man's escutcheon to weigh heavily against the
worthiest qualities; particularly in counties as far removed
from metropolitan influence as those of southern England.
Mrs. Radcliffe may have had experience with people of
this sort, who looked down upon her condescendingly be-
cause her relatives were 'in trade/ and made up their minds
to overlook this disgrace when she became a famous author.
\i so, we can hardly wonder at her independent attitude,
although it seems a trifle unfortunate that she cut herself
off from intercourse. with other people of literary interests,
as well as from society at large.
Perhaps we get most suggestion as to Mrs. Radcliffe's
personality in the selections from her journals included in
• Talfourd's memoir. We can certainly learn something of
1 A Group of Englishmen, p. 187.
26 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
her literary tastes; we hardly need to have been told that
Shakespeare was her favorite author, for she is constantly
making references to him. For instance, in the trip to
Hastings, July 23, iSoo1:
Near eleven, before we reached Hastings ; no moon ; star-
light ; milky- way very lucid ; seemed to rise out of the sea.
Solemn and pleasing night-scene. Glow-worms, in great num-
bers, shone silently and faintly on the dewy banks, like some-
thing supernatural. Judgment of Shakespeare in selecting this
image to assist the terrific impression in his ghost scene.
Again, in the account of her visit to Warwick Castle, in
Near the summit an embattled overhanging gallery, where
formerly, no doubt, sentinels used to pace during the night,
looked down upon the walls of the Castle, the rivers and the
country far and wide, received the watch-word from the sentinel,
perched in the little watch-tower, higher still and seeing farther
in the moonlight, and repeated it to the soldiers on guard on the
walls and gates below. Before those great gates and under-
neath these towers, Shakespeare's ghost might have stalked;
they are in the very character and spirit of such an apparition,
grand and wild and strange ; there should, however, have been
An entry made during the trip to Portsmouth and the Isle
of Wight, in the autumn of 1811, shows her feeling for
music, as well as her constant reference to Shakespeare.8
How sweet is the cadence of the distant surge! It seemed,
as we sat in our inn, as if a faint peal of far-off bells mingled
with the sounds on shore, sometimes heard, sometimes lost : the
first note of the beginning, and last of the falling peal, seeming
always the most distinct. This resounding of the distant surge
on a rocky shore might have given Shakespeare his idea when
he makes Ferdinand, in the Tempest, hear, amidst the storm,
bells ringing his father's dirge; a music which Ariel also com-
memorates, together with the sea- wave: —
* Memoir, p. 42. (Gaston de Blondeville, etc., Vol. I.)
* Memoir, p. 60.
8 Memoir, p. 79.
Facts of Mrs. Radcliffe's Life 27
'Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell,
Ding, dong, bell !'
In other passages she quotes from Goldsmith and from
A reference to Claude Lorraine is interesting, since her
gentler landscapes are often compared to his. The passage
is found in the account of her visit to Belvedere House, in
June, iSos1 :
In a shaded corner, near the chimney, a most exquisite Claude,
an evening view, perhaps over the Campagna of Rome. The
sight of this pictuie imparted much of the luxurious repose and
satisfaction, which we derive from contemplating the finest
scenes of Nature. Here was the poet, as well as the painter,
touching the imagination, and making you see more than the
picture contained. You saw the real light of the sun, you
breathed the air of the country, you felt all the circumstances
of a luxurious climate on the most serene and beautiful land-
scape; and, the mind being thus softened, you almost fancied
you heard Italian music on the air — the music of Paisiello ; and
such, doubtless, were the scenes that inspired him.
The love of nature which her novels reveal is shown just
as strikingly, and even more effectively, in these informal
journals. We find one comment which is interesting in view
of some of her descriptions:
I prefer rich beauty to wild beauty, unless accompanied by
such shapes of grandeur as verge upon the sublime.*
In an entry written during the trip to Beachy Head, July
23, 1800, we have not only some remarkably vivid descrip-
tion, but a little more suggestion than usual of the personal
side of Mrs. Radcliffe3 :
Walked to the shore and along it, with a .hope of having
some sight of the sea-front of Beachy Head from beneath it,
1 Ibid., p. 65.
9 Ibid., ^. 54-
* Ibid., p. 40.
28 Ann Raddiffe in Relation to Her Time
though four or five miles off. . . . Within half a mile' of
the great front, unable to proceed farther ; sat down on a block,
wearied out, desiring William to go on; he was soon hid by a
turn of the cliffs. Almost frightened at the solitude and vast-
ness of the scene, though Chance^ was with me. Tide almost
out ; only sea in front ; white cliffs rising over me, but not
impending; strand all around a chaos of rocks and fallen cliffs,
far out into the waves; sea- fowl wheeling and screaming; all
disappeared behind the point, beyond which, is the great cliff;
but we had doubled point after point, in the hope that this
would be the next ; and had been much deceived in the distances
by these great objects; after one remote point gained, another
and another succeeded, and still the great cliff was unattained;
the white precipices beautifully varied with plants, green, blue,
yellow and poppy. Wheat-ears flew up often from the beach;
Chance pursued them. At length William returned,' having
been nearly, but not quite, in front of the great promontory.
Slowly and laboriously we made our way back along the beach,
greatly fatigued, the day exceedingly hot, the horizon sulphurous,
with lowering clouds ; thunder rolled faintly at a distance.
Perhaps the mention of the favorite dog, with the evi-
dently close companionship of husband and wife, recalls to
those who are familiar with the letters of Elizabeth Barrett
and Robert Browning that other 'literary marriage/ But
Mr. Radcliffe, although apparently well known and respected
in his owu time, has lived in literary history only as the
husband of his wife. That even in his lifetime his wife's
fame had become the chief distinction of the family is shown
by the notice of his mother's death in the Gentleman's Maga-
zine for February,
At the rectory-house at Broughton, co. Lincoln, aged 71, Mrs.
Deborah Radcliffe, mother of the husband of the celebrated
Authoress of several highly-esteemed Novels and other works.
Mrs. Radcliffe's attitude toward her literary contempo-
raries is mentioned both in the memoir prefixed to Gaston*
1 Her favorite dog.
Facts of Mrs. Radcliffe's Life
de Blondeville, and in the article in the Annual Biography
and Obituary. In the former we have the statement1 :
Much of her leisure was spent in jreading- Jthe liierary_prp-
ductions of the day, especially poetry and novels. Of the
latter works she always spoke with entire freedom from jeal-
ousy, and devoured the earlier Scotch novels with all the avidity
of youth, although she felt deeply a slighting expression in
'Waverley/ towards herself, which the author might have spared.
Sir Walter Scott has, however, made ample amends to her
reputation by his elaborate criticism prefixed to Ballantine's
edition of her romances.
The 'slighting expression* referred to occurs in Scott's
humorous explanation of his title,2 and was probably not
meant to carry any real sting.
More serious criticisms by contemporary authors are sug-
gested by her other biographer, when he says:
Of censure she had as small a share as could be, considering
her distinction ; and that, too, chiefly from the writers of other
novels or romances, whose candour on the subject may be sus-
pected; since it is certain that no writer of fictitious narrative
is required, otherwise than by his or her own motives, to deliver
an opinion upon contemporaries. She never spoke of their
writings, except when she could have the delight, which she
often had, of expressing admiration ; or when, indeed, she had
1 Memoir, p. 98.
' Waverley, Introductory : 'Had I, for example, announced in my
frontispiece, "Waverley, a Tale of other Days," must not every
novel-reader have anticipated a castle scarce less than that cf
Udolpho, of which the eastern wing had long been uninhabited, and
the keys either lost, or consigned to the care of some aged butler
or house-keeper, whose trembling steps, about the middle of the
second volume, were doomed to guide the -hero, or heroine, to the
ruinous precincts? Would not the owl have shrieked and the
cricket cried in my very title-page? and could it have been possible
for me, with a moderate attention, to decorum, to introduce any
scene more lively than might be produced by the jocularity of a
clownish but faithful valet, or the garrulous narrative of the
heroine's fillc-dc-chambre, when rehearsing the stories of blood and
horror which she had heard in the servants' hall?'
30 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
the other entertainment, of observing that those who betrayed
a wish to expel her violently from the field of literature, or at
least to dose it roughly against her as she retired, seldom
failed to imitate her in one part of their works, after having
endeavored to proscribe her by another.1
Mrs. Radcliffe's housewifely talents are mentioned with
considerable emphasis. We are told that she 'was minutely
attentive to her household affairs, . . . Although by no
means disposed to parsimony, she kept an exact account of
daily disbursements, until a very short time before her
death/ Probably this attention to practical details was
hardly expected of literary ladies. Least "of all would it
be looked for in one whose imagination led her to the work-
ing out of extravagant adventures, rather than to the repro-
duction of everyday life. But even in her novels we find
scenes of domestic happiness, which, although they are de-
scribed in rather stilted language, have both sincerity and
charm. An example of this is the account of La Luc's
family, in The Romance of the Forest; another is the open-
ing of The Mysteries of Udolpho, which gives an almost idyl-
lic picture of Emily's early life with her father and mother.
Another suggestion of Mrs. Radcliffe's devotion to her home
may perhaps be gathered from one of her poems. These,
for the most part, strike one as conventional exercises in
verse, and rather poor ones at that; they show very little
of the writer's actual feeling. But December's Eve at Home
seems to me to bear at least a faint stamp of autobiography.
It may serve to modify the traditional picture of Mrs, Rad-
cliffe, sitting lonely on winter evenings writing her direful
tales, while the wind howls outside as drearily as it does
around her imaginary castle. Here we have her winter
evening with the pleasant accompaniments of light, music,
and friendly companionship, including the favorite dog
which we have met before :
1 Annual Biog. and Obit., p. 104.
Facts of Mrs. Radcliffe's Lift 31
Welcome December's cheerful night,
When the taper-lights appear;
When the piled hearth blazes bright,
And those we love are circled there 1
And on the soft rug basking lies,
Outstretched at ease, the spotted friend,
With glowing coat and half-shut eyes,
Where watchfulness and slumber blend.
Welcome December's cheerful hour,
When books, with converse sweet combined,
And music's many-gifted power
Exalt, or soothe th' awakened mind.
Then, let the snow-wind shriek aloud,
And menace oft the guarded sash,
And all his diapason crowd,
As o'er the frame his white wings dash.
He sings of darkness and of storm,
Of icy cold and lonely ways;
But, gay the room, the hearth more warm,
And brighter is the taper's blaze.
Then, let the merry tale go round.
And airy songs the hours deceive ;
And let our heart-felt laughs resound,
In welcome to December's Eve I1
Is it fanciful to feel that from these scattered hints we
have constructed at least the shadow of a personality? jQer-
tainly there is evidence of strength of character in a woman
who could keep her private and her public life so resolutely
apart, without, however, taking^ refuge in_ anonymous publi-
cation, as did many women writers of her day. Even
though Mrs. Elwood attributes to her a mistaken idea of
'the incompatibility of the gentlewoman and the authoress/
the fact that she gave the sanction of her name to her pro-
ductions seems to show that she recognized to some extent
the dignity of literature as a profession. One critic finds
Mrs. Radcliffe a pure type of femininity :
1 Posthumous Works 4. 213.
32 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
There is a beauty in her mind, a gentleness, a delicacy, a
retiredness in her disposition, which is wholly feminine, and
which every man cannot but feel, who feels as a man ought
It is true that the brief description of her person and man-
ners gives us a decidedly feminine impression. But there
are other critics who have called her mind 'masculine* ; and,
indeed, if the novels were .anonymous, it might be difficult
to decide whether a man or a woman was responsible for
The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Italian.
Perhaps, as in the case of many people, the most interest-
ing things we discover about her .are the inconsistencies.
She jvas rejmng^jsdmQst : shy, in disposition-; and yet she
was, for many years, probably the most widely known
woman in England. Her physician tells us that she 'pos-
sessed a quick sensibility,' which 'would serve to increase the
warmth of the social feelings'2 ; and yet we have no record
of any friendships in which she played a part, no account
of her by any close associate. Either she succeeded in im-
pressing upon all her friends her desire for privacy, or her
companionship with her husband was so completely satisfy-
ing that she did not care for other intimacies. Certainly her
husband's note, at the end of the memoir which has been so
often quoted, shows his devotion, in the desire to have those
belated volumes in a sense a memorial to her:
The Editor of the present Publication, who is not the Writer
of the preceding Memoir, is aware, that it would be unbecoming
for him to say more of Works, written by one so dear to him,
than may be necessary to give the Public an early assurance of
their authenticity; and that fact, he apprehends, will be suffici-
ently proved by the distribution, which he has resolved to make,
of the whole purchase-money of the copyright. Every part of
that produce will be paid, as it shall accrue to him, to some
public charitable institution in England. The Lord Bishop of
1 United States Review and Literary Gazette, April, 1827.
* Memoir, p. 105.
Facts of Mrs. Radcliffe's Life 33
Bath and Wells, and Sir Walter Stirling, B?rt. in consideration
of the utility of this purpose, allow him the honour of saying,
that they will audit his account of that distribution.1
The very thing which we are inclined to admire in Mrs.
Radcliffe — her determination to keep her private life entirely
separate from her literary fame — makes her an almost
impossible subject for biography, Perhaps, however, we do
gain a sufficiently definite impression to say this — the little
we know of her makes us wish that we might know more.
1 Posthumous Works i. 132.
Section i. Contemporary Estimates of her Work.
Mrs. Radcliffe's first book is noticed as follows in the
Critical Review for September, 1789*:
The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne, an Highland Story,
izmo. 35. Hookham.
There is some fancy and much romantic imagery in the con-
duct of this story; but our pleasure would have been more
unmixed had our author preserved better the manners and
costume of the Highlands. He seems to be unacquainted with
The Monthly Review for December, 1789,* has a comment
rather longer, but even less flattering :
To those who are delighted with the marvellous, whom
wonders, and wonders only, can charm, the present production
will accord a considerable degree of amusement. This kind of
entertainment, however, can be little relished but by the young
and unformed mind. To men who have passed, or even attained,
the meridian of life, a series of events, which seem n,ot to have
their foundation in nature, will ever be insipid, if not disgustful.
The author of this performance appears to have written on the
principle of Mr. Bayes, to elevate and surprise. By means of
trap-doors, false pannels, subterranean passages, etc. etc. this
purpose is effected : and all this, as was before intimated, will
possibly have its admirers. But though we are not of the number
of such readers, we must honestly confess, that this little work is
to be commended for its moral; as also for the good senti-
ments and reflections wfeich occasionally occur in it.
The Scots Magazine, in its Appendix for 1789,* repeats
the last two or three, lines of the notice just quoted — lines
Work ; 35
which furnish a shining example of the faint praise that
damns. Especially does this phrase seem apt as we look
through the book-reviews of the time. The reviewers seem
to have had a bias toward morality, but they rarely motion
its presence except when there is a total absence of anything
else worthy of praise.
Mrs. Radcliffe's first attempt, then, created little excite-
ment in the literary world. It is rather interesting, in view
of Scott's later achievements, that she began with a High-
land story, but just why she called it a Highland story is
hard to understand. Probably the Highlands of Scotland
had for her a suggestion of romance ; but her imagination
had not developed to such a degree that it could, as in the
later books, almost take the place of knowledge. Placing
her castle on the 'north-east coast of Scotland, in the most
romantic part of the Highlands/ and bestowing Scotch
names on a few of her characters, were her only steps in
the direction of local color.
The reception of the second book, A Sicilian Romance,
was rather more encouraging. The Monthly Review1 said
In this tale, we meet with something more than the alternate
tears and rapture of tender lovers. The writer possesses a
happy vein of invention, .and a correctness of taste, which
enable her to rise above the level of mediocrity. Romantic
scenes, and surprizing1 'events, are exhibited in elegant and ani-
The Critical Review2 was somewhat less enthusiastic, but
took the story much more seriously than its predecessor :
This very interesting novel engages the attention, in defiance
* of numerous improbabilities and 'hair-breadth scapes' too often
repeated. Perhaps, on second reading, these might be still more
disgusting; but it is*an experiment that we can scarcely venture
to try but with modern novels of the first class. We found the
'3.91, September, 1790.
* N. Ar. i. 350. March, 1791.
36 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
tale, we have said, very entertaining, and involved with art,
developed with skill, and the event concealed with great dex-
terity. If our author again engaged in .this task, we would
advise her not to introduce so many caverns with such peculiar
concealments, or so many spring-locks which open only on one
The Scots Magazine* again echoes the Monthly Review;
its reviews seem to consist of abridgements of those in other
^Sicilian Romance, it seemsf attracted ^pm^attentinn
other than that of reviewers who read it as a matter of duty.
Mrs. Elizabeth Carter, in her Letters to Mrs. Montagu,
I have been reading with much pleasure the 'Sicilian Romance/
The language is elegant, the scenery exquisitely painted, the
moral good, and the conduct and conclusion of the fable, I
think, original. Have you read it? And do you know the name
of the Authoress? I do not.*
All the announcements of the book had read, By the
Authoress of the Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne. The
account of The Romance of the Forest, which appears in
the Critical Review for April, I792,3 has this heading:
The Romance of the Forest ; interspersed with some Pieces of
Poetry. By the Authoress of 'A Sicilian Romance' etc. 3 vols.
9s. Sewed. Hookham.
The writer begins his review by saying:
We spoke with respect of the Sicilian Romance; but this
lady, for by the term (authoress) we must suppose it to be the
production of a female's pen, has greatly exceeded her first
He adds a note to this effect : 'In the advertisement to the
second edition, she styles herself Ann Radcliffe, and we have
1 52. 438. September, 1790,
'3.323. December 15, 1790.
*N. Ar.4,458. April, 1792.
no authority for prefixing Miss or Mrs/ The whole review
is in a tone of such decided enthusiasm that the author
seems to feel he may be criticized for going too far. He
stands his ground, however, in his concluding words :
If it may appear, that we have commended this novel with an
eager warmth, we can only say, in apology for it, that we have
copied our real sentiments. The lady is wholly unknown to us,
. and probably will ever continue so. We must, however, con-
sider The Romance of the Forest* as one of the first works in
this line of novel-writing that we have seen.
Other reviews are equally commendatory. The English
Review1 begins its discussion with the statement :
Of modern novels, The Romance of the Forest must certainly
be allowed to rank among the first class.
The Monthly Review* says:
'We have seldom met with a fiction which has more forcibly
fixed the attention, or more agreeably interested the feelings,
throughout the whole narrative.'
Both these reviewers give long extracts from the novel, to
justify their praise of the author's style. In the European
Magazine for October, I795,8 we have a reference to the
book, which the writer begins as follows: * 4
In Mrs. Radcliffe's 'Romance of the Forest/ (a Novel far
superior, I think, to her 'Mysteries of Udolpho') we have some
pleasing speculations on, the reunion of friends in a future
state of existence; they deserve to be detached from the volume,
and inserted in your valuable miscellany.
This quotation introduces a question upon which there
has been some difference of opinion — that of the relative
literary value of The Romance of the Forest and The Mys-
teries of Udolpho. Mrs. Barbauld, in her preface to Mrs.
1 20. 352. November, 1792.
'8.82. May, 1792.
j ? - t ^ — •
1 28. 230. October, 1795.
38 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
Radcliffe's works,1 speaks of The Romance of the Forest
as 'the first production of this lady, in which her peculiar
genius was strikingly developed, . . . and in some re-
spects . . . the best/ Later on, in referring to The
Mysteries of Udolpho, she says : 'It abounds still more with
instances of mysterious and terrific appearances, but has
perhaps less of character, and a more imperfect story.'
George Moir, on the other hand, in the seventh edition of
the Encyclopedia Britannica, gives his opinion as follows:
It may be said in a word, that th.e Romance of the Forest,
founded on a French cause celebre, has the fewest faults ; that
the Italian, though extremely unequal, and in the third volume
a comparative failure, contains the. most striking and dramatic
scenes ; but that the Mysteries of Udolpho is on the whole, and
justly, considered the best.1
Miss Anna Seward, in a letter written August 3, 1794,*
Her Mysteries of Udolpho is a much superior work to her
Romance of the Forest. The first volume of that is fine, the
rest heavy, uninteresting, and contain very affected writing.
Some of the reviewers of The Mysteries of Udolpho ,
while giving it high praise? seem reluctant to consider it an
advance over the earlier book. ' For instance, the Critical
Review f or
With regard to the work before us, while we acknowledge the
extraordinary powers of Mrs. Radcliffe, some readers will be
inclined to doubt whether they have been exerted -in the present
work with equal effect as in the Romance of the Forest.
A preference for the one work or the other is probably a
matter of personal fancy, although there may be some justice
in the comment of a reviewer that the author might write
a better story than The Mysteries of Udolpho 'when no
1 British Novelists, Vol. 43.
" Treatises on Poetry, Modern Romance and Rhetoric, pp. 197-206.
' Letters 3. 389.
4 2. 262.
tonger disposed to sacrifice excellence to quantity, and
lengthen out a story for the sake of filling an additional
volume/1 Mrs. Kavanagh remarks that the title of The
Romance of the Forest suggests some of the most delightful
associations in English poetry — Robin Hood, and the Forest
of Arden; that after Shakespeare there is a great gap in
forest-literature, and that Mrs. Radcliffe is the first after
him to give us once more woodland scenery in its freshness
Certainly the charm of the out-of-doors is felt in The
Romance of the Forest. Although the scene is presumably
in France, it was undoubtedly the author's love of English
woods that inspired her descriptions. Her devotion to
Windsor Forest is mentioned by her biographers; we are
told that she came to know certain trees there, and to feel
a special fondness for them as individuals. English scenery
was responsible for this new picture of life in a forest, just
as unmistakably as Shakespeare's knowledge of English
woodlands gave us the Forest of Arden. -^
One tiling is beyond question. By the time of the publi-
cation of The Mysteries of Udolpho, Mrs. Radcliffe's place
as an author was assured. The appearance of a new book
bearing her name was evidently an important event in the
literary world, for it is heralded fcr weeks in the columns of
the London Chronicle, and the notices are always placed in
a prominent position, as if the book were considered of
especial importance. The first advertisement, on Thursday,
April 24, 1794 (77-391), reads as follows:
In a few Days will be published,
In Four very large Volumes Twelves,
The Mysteries of Udolpho : A Romance ; interspersed with -»ome
Pieces of Poetry, etc.
By Ann Radcliffe,
Author of the Romance of the Forest, &c.
Printed for G. G. and J. Robinson, Paternoster row.
1 Critical Review 2. 372. August, 1794,
40 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
The first notice of actual publication occurs in the London
Chronicle for 'Saturday, May to, 1794.
Incidentally it may be remarked that Mrs. Radcliffe's
change of publisher possibly indicates her growing fame and
prosperity as an author. In Rees and Britain's Literary
London, from 1779 to 1853 (P- 37 )> tms reference is made
to the Robinsons :
The Robinsons, at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of
I the nineteenth centuries, when I first became acquainted with the
firm, carried on the largest business of any house in London,
as general publishers, and also as wholesale and retail book-
sellers. , . . They published largely books of considerable
size and of great value. The head of the firm was considered
to have an excellent judgment in the difficult and often critical
undertaking of the superintendence and management of the
literary concerns of a publishing establishment. He greatly
respected meritorious authors, and acted with singular liberality
in his pecuniary dealings with them.
That a firm of such reputation was willing to pay £500
for a work of fiction is testimony to the distinction which the
author had already attained.
The reviews of The Mysteries of Udolpho are many, and,
for the most part, distinctly favorable. Almost invariably
they are given the dignity of a leading place in the magazine,
and most of the reviewers indulge in copious extracts to
illustrate the author's style. A few quotations will show the
general tone of the reviews.
The Monthly Review for November, I794,1 in a long and
enthusiastic account of the book, contains these comments :
The works of this ingenious writer not only possess, in com-
mon with many other productions of the same class, the agree-
able qualities of correctness of sentiment and elegance of style,
but are also distinguished by a rich vein of invention, which sup-
plies an endless variety of incidents to fill the imagination of
the reader ; by an admirable ingenuity of contrivance to awaken
his curiosity, and to bind him in the chains of suspence; and
1 IS. 278.
by a vigour of conception and a delicacy of feeling which are
capable of producing the strongest sympathetic emotions,
whether of pity or terror.
. . . The embellishments of the work are highly finished.
The descriptions are rich, glowing, and varied : they discover a
vigorous imagination and an uncommon command of language;
and many of them would furnish admirable subjects for the
pencil of the painter.
The British Critic1 has a review almost as appreciative:
We so very seldom find in a work of imagination, those quali-
ties combined, which are necessary to its successful accomplish-
ment, that when the event does happen, we distinguish it as a
place of repose from our severer labours, and are happy to be-
guile the hours of weariness and chagrin beneath the shade
which fancy spreads around. A tale, regularly told, neither
offending probability by its extravagance, nor fatiguing by its
want of vivacity or incident, has ever been esteemed among
those labours of the mind which the critic cannot disdain to
commend, nor genius to introduce, and when it is further em-
bellished by the charms of good writing, is the vehicle of ingenu-
ous sentiments, and inculcates the purest morality, it eminently
takes the lead in that class of writings, which is professedly
designed for entertainment.
Mrs-. Radcliffe had before obtained considerable reputation,
from the cultivation of this branch of literature, and we are
happy that it has fallen to our province to record one of the
best and most interesting of her works.
The onl% serious. .Criticism brought against the book is in
regard to the superabundance of description. The Euro-
pean Magazine* speaks of the author as 'minute even to
tedious prolixity in her local descriptions/ but the reviewer
takes off the curse from this criticism by adding, 'a weight
which would have hung with deadening power about the
neck of a composition not [animated by the utmost vigour of
*4. no. August, 1794.
'25.433. June, 1794.
42 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
Although some of the critics differ as to the relative
literary value of The Romance of t\w Forest and The Mys-
teries of Udolpho, most of them agree that the latter was,
of all Mrs. Radcliffe's novels, the most popular. This popu-
larity is natural enough. The^jjreater complication of the
plot, the wider range of experience to which we are intro-
duced, the increased number of thrills and surprises, and the
really remarkable description of the Castle of Udolpho, all
were calculated to appeal to the popular taste. Even now
the charm has not wholly departed, if, forgetting to read
critically, we submit ourselves to its power. We feel a little
shiver of apprehension when the black pall on the bed slowly
begins to rise. We share Emily's excitement and hope
when, in her chamber in the gloomy castle, she hears the
notes of a familiar song, and thinks that her lover is near.
Talfourd's judgment is probably right when he says, 'Of all
the romances in the world, this is perhaps the most ro-
mantic/1 It is, possibly, the excess of romance which has
made the world tire of it.
Mrs. Radcliffe's next work was an attempt in an entirely
different field — an account of her trip through Holland and
Germany, and her visit to the English Lake-region. The
notice of this publication appears in the London Chronicle
for May 21, 1795. It received as much attention in the
magazines as the novels had — in fact, even more, so far as
space was concerned, for some of the magazines gave a
review long enough to be divided among two or three
numbers. Works of travel were popular at that time, and
it seems to have been generally conceded that Mrs. Rad- :>,
cliffe's talent for description peculiarly fitted her for such «
Y writing. It was suggested, however, in some of the reviews,
that she put too much of her strength into description of
1 natural scenery, instead of studying men and manners. One
~~ir, p. 126.
f^reviewer remarked that she looked at scenes 'not with the
eye of a philosopher, but a landscape painter.'1
The same review contains Mrs. Radcliffe's explanation of
her use of the term we :
She observes, in a preface, 'that her journey having been
performed in the company of her nearest relative and friend,
the account of it has been written so much from their mutual
observation, that there would be a deception in permitting the
book to appear without some acknowledgment which may dis-
tinguish it from works entirely her own. The title-page would,
therefore, have contained the joint names of her husband and
herself, if this mode of appearing before the public, besides
being thought by that relative a greater acknowledgment than
was due to his share of the work, had not seemed liable to the
imputation of a design to attract attention by extraordinary
novelty. It is, however, necessary to her own satisfaction, that
some notice should be taken of this assistance.'
Modern readers would probably find the Journey through
Holland too exclusively a work of description. The books
of travel which are popular to-day have more of the narra-
tive-interest. Most of us would like better the informal
notes of her journal, from which a few extracts have already
been given. To quote from a review of the Posthumous
They are far more interesting, and a thousand times more
graphic, than her published Journal of her tour to Holland and
Germany, where much of the original spirit of the sketches
seems to have evaporated in the process of preparation for the
• But for her contemporaries the Journey evidently pos-
sessed great interest, and some reviewers even seemed to
feel that it was a work which deserved more serious con-
sideration than the novels. The Critical Review* for
* English Review 26. I. July, 1795.
1 N. Ar. 14. 241. July, 1795.
44 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
The character of Mrs. Radcliffe's pen, for a peculiar felicity
in the description of objects of fancy, has been acknowledged
by universal suffrage. The repeated instances of this given in
the 'Mysteries of Udolpho,' where the objects are fanciful, and
the descriptions consequently arbitrary, and sometimes redund-
ant, excited a public wish that she might engage in a work
where the same talent should be necessarily employed to
delineate the grandeur, beauty, or sublimity of real scenery, and
where the recurrence of description, following only the exhi-
bitions of nature, should not be oppressive. Such a work is
now before us, and we have not been disappointed in the ex-
pectations we were taught to form.
Another bit of testimony as to contemporary opinion is
given by Thomas Green in his Diary of a Lover of Litera-
ture, in the entry for May 26, 1800:
Read Mrs. Radcliffe's Tour to the Lakes. Much might per-
haps be expected from this Lady's well known powers of
description, exerted on so congenial a theme: but to paint from
the imagination, and to copy nature, are such different achieve-
ments, that I was surprised, I confess, to find that she had
succeeded so well, and failed so little. Her pictures, though
somewhat overwrought and heavy compared with the expressive
etchings of Gray, exhibit as clear distinct and forcible images
to the mind's eye, as it is well possible for words to convey.
Such a series of them 'where pure description holds the place of
sense,' would probably pall on most palates ; but so strong a
passion do I feel for the keen delights of picturesque and moun-
tain scenery, that I was gratified, I own, to the last*
The Italian was first announced in December, 1796.
About this book there has been more difference of opinion
than about any of the others. To some critics it was the
high-water mark of Mrs. Radcliffe's achievement; to others ,
it showed a distinct falling-off. Modern opinion would
perhaps incline toward the former view. This story has
more unity of plot than the others ; it has more real delinea-
tion of character; and its suggestion of the -supernatural is,
if anything, niore impressive than that in The Mysteries of
1 Diary of a Lover of Literature, p. 225.
Most of the reviewers unite in considering the monk, Sche-
doni, as the most successful of Mrs. Radcliffe's characters.
Some, indeed, find fault with him as being too appallingly
wicked, while others assert that, when she tries to soften his
character by a touch of parental affection, he becomes unreal.
But certainly he makes upon us the impression of a person-
ality; he is not, as Hazlitt said of her heroes — Valancourt,
Theodore, and the rest — merely 'a sounding name, a graceful
One interesting comment on the book is made by a writer
in the United States Review and Literary Gazette?
No one, who thinks of the new power which seems suddenly
to have developed itself in The Italian/ but must feel sorry that
she did not set about another work while her mind was yet
glowing with the exercise of that she had just finished. We
allude to the masterly dialogues in that greatest of her works,
particularly in the interview between the Marchesa and Schedoni
in the church of San Nicolo; that between Schedoni and
Spalatro, when the latter refuses to murder Ellena ; and in the
scene, also, in which Schedoni discovers Ellena to be his
daughter. The deadly shrewdness, the sophistry with a mixture
of emotion in the first ; the close, abrupt and highly impassioned
character of the next, and those following, have seldom been
approached by any novelist. It is this which puts life, indeed,
into a story, and when we think what Mrs. Radcliffe might have
done, had she gone on thus, we cannot but feel sad at what we
This praise seems, on the' whole, just. Although passages
can be found in The 'Italian in which the conversation is
artificial and out of character, and although the faithful
servant Paulo strikes us as being wearisomely prosy rather
than amusing, the passages mentioned are certainly different
from anything found in the earlier novels. Mrs. Radcliffe
here uses dialogue as a means both of revealing character
and of advancing the action ;t and she does it skilfully.
1 Sketches and Essays, p. 267.
'a i. April, 1827.
46 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
Schedoni as a character is inevitably connected with
Schedoni as an actor in the most dramatic scene of the book.
It is melodrama if you like, but it is melodrama raised to its
most successful pitch, if we can trust its effect upon con-
The Monthly Review1 says of this scene :
The part, however, which displays the greatest genius, and
the most force of description, is the account of the scenes which
passed in the lone house on the shore of the Adriatic, between
Schedoni, Ellena, and Spalatro :— the horrible sublimity which
characterizes the discovery made by the former that Ellena
was his daughter, at the instant in which he was about to stab
her, is perhaps unparalleled.
The Edinburgh Review,2 in commenting upon Mrs. Rad-
cliffe's powers of description, refers to the same passage :
Do we not actually see before us that lone house by the
Mediterranean, with the scudding clouds, the screaming sea-
birds, the stormy sea— the scene selected for the murder of
Ellena by her father ?
Dr. Nathan Drake, in his Literary Hours (i. 361), calls
Mrs. Radcliffe 'the Shakespeare of Romance Writers/ and
goes on to say :
In her last piece, termed The Italian, the attempt of Schedoni
to assassinate the amiable and innocent Ellena, whilst confined
with banditti in a lone house on the sea-shore, is wrought up
in so masterly a manner, that every nerve vibrates with pity
and terror, especially at the moment when, about to plunge a
dagger into her bosom, he discovers her to be his daughter;
every word, every action of the shocked and self-accusing Con-
fessor, whose character is marked with traits almost super-
human, appal yet delight the reader, and it is difficult to ascertain
whether ardent curiosity, intense commiseration, or apprehen-
sion that suspends almost the faculty of breathing, be, in the
progress of this well-written story, most powerfully excited.
*22. 282. March, 1797.
• July, 1834.
It must be admitted that there were opinions less favorable
to the book. Green said,1 'This work will maintain, but not
extend Mrs. Radcliffe's fame as a novelist.' Anna Seward2
declared that 'the story, ... as usual, toils after the
terrible ; but produces it, surely, with less effect than in her
A writer in the English Review* seems to account very
reasonably for the disappointment which some people felt in
reading The Italian :
It was impossible to raise curiosity and expectation to a.
higher pitch than she has done in her Mysteries of Udolpho;
yet these mysteries she accounted for in a natural manner.
The reader of The Italian now before us sits down with Ihis
conviction. As children who have been frighted, by an ideal
bugbear, and afterwards convinced that there was nothing in
it, will cry, 'No, nol we know what it is; you cannot frighten
us again :' so, we acknowledge, does the perusal of the present
romance affect us.
It seems very probable that, had The Italian appeared be-
fore Mrs. Radcliffe had so thoroughly accustomed the public
to her habit of explaining away her terrors, it would have
been universally considered, as it was considered by many
critics, the best of her works, Scott speaks with especial
enthusiasm of the opening scene of the story,4 and he is in-
clined to defend the scenes dealing with the Inquisition,
which had received rather more unfavorable criticism than
the rest of the book.
The Italian was the last publication which appeared in
Mrs. Radcliffe's lifetime, with the exception of a slim volume
of poems, dated London, 1816. This volume has the fol-
lowing rather puzzling preface :
The Editor of this little volume trusts that he need not offer
any apology for presenting it to the public. The genius of the
1 Diary of a Lover of Literature, p. 28.
' Letters 4. 382.
'28. 574. December, 1796.
4 Lives of the Novelists, p. 218.
48 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
author has been universally acknowledged. The merit of the
different pieces which compose this collection, is variable — some
are beautiful, and bear every mark of a poetical imagination.
Her genius was of the sterling kind, and partook much of the
masculine character : and the Editor feels assured that this
volume will be welcome to those who have repeatedly been
delighted by the efforts of that genius 1 whose souls have started,
and whose eyes have wept, at the scenes of terror and pity which
she has portrayed. That her genius was poetical is proved by
the beautiful and sublime descriptions of scenery with which her
romances abound — descriptions seldom equalled, and, perhaps,
no where surpassed.
The Editor has only to add, that the pieces which occur be-
yond page 95 are his own, with whatever faults, therefore, they
are chargeable, they are to be placed to his own account.
One would suppose that such a preface could be written
only by a close relative of the author, and that only one
nearly connected would presume to finish out a volume of
her poems with his own. But when we remember the care-
ful reserve with which Mr. Radcliffe spoke of his wife's
work, even after her death, we feel that this is not at all in
his style. Moreover, the past tense used throughout would
prevent us from ascribing it to him, for it would seem to
imply that the writer supposed Mrs. Radcliffe to be no longer
living. No help can be found in reviews, lor the volume
seems to have attracted no attention. .
JVVith so long a gap — from 'The Italian .in^i796 to her
posthumous works in iS^S-r-one might f ancy tbat~Mrs7 Rad-
cliiYe would have been entirely forgotten. Nothing shows
more conclusively the place she had occupieJlrt pyhTTr favnf
than the lively interest with which, thes£-last volumes.
received.^ The book was advertised, before its publication,
even more extensively than the earlier ones had been. The
Morning Chronicle began announcing it on March 20. The
announcement, the first in the column and in large type,
The following new works will shortly be published by Mr.
Cast on de Bhndeville; a Romance, with some Poetical Pieces.
By Anne Radcliffc, Author of The Romance of the Forest, Mys-
teries of Udolpho, Italian, etc. To which will be prefixed, a
Memoir of the Author, and Extracts from her Diary. Published
from the originals, in the possession of William Radcliffe, Esq.
4 vols. post 8vo.
The same announcement, or practically the same, followed
at intervals of a few days, ten times during the next three
months, until finally, on June 12, 1826, the actual publication
was announced. Before this final announcement, there ap-
peared on June 6 an advertisement of the complete works
of Mrs. Radcliffe:
Jdrs. Radcliffe's Works:— The whole of the Works of _ the
above celebrated Authoress can be had complete (embellished
with numerous Engravings) in the two first volumes of Lim-
bird's British Novelist, for the trifling sum of Ten Shillings in
boards.—Vol. I contains The Mysteries of Udolpho, and The
Sicilian Romance. — Vol. II contains The Romance of the Forest,
Italian, and The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne.—Vo\&. Ill and
IV are nearly ready for delivery, price 53. each.
Printed and published by J. Limbird, 143, Strand, London.
That news of the posthumous novel had spread even be-
fore the first announcement quoted above, and that it had
reached the literary public of America, as well as that of
England, is shown by an item in the Museum of Foreign
Literature and Science, published in Philadelphia and New
Mr. Colburn will shortly publish a Romance by Ann Radcliffe,
author of 'The Mysteries of Udolpho/ etc. This announcement
will, no doubt, excite the greatest interest among all classes of
the 'reading public/ who will eagerly welcome a new and genuine
work by the 'Great Enchantress/ whose pen has apparently been
so long idle. The forthcoming Romance would have been
published some years ago, had not the Author's nervous tem-
perament, arising from the state of her health (which declined
soon after the work in question was finished) made her hesitate
*8. 94. January, 1826. (N. S. I.)
50 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time •
to plunge again in the bustle of literary competition ; and being:
in affluent circumstances, she rould afford to indulge in the
leisure and privacy she so mucl- loved. Since the death of this
celebrated lady, which took place in 1823, Mr. Radcliffe, her
husband, has yielded to the solicitations pressed on him, and has
consented that her last Romance, which will be found quite
worthy of her fame, should be given to the world.
The judgments of 'the critics in regard to Gaston de
Blondeville show an amusing and bewildering variety.
The Edinburgh Magazine1 declares :
Mrs. Radcliffe has long borne undisputed, and almost solitary
sway over the regions of romance; and the book we shall now
refer to is certainly one of her own magical writing. If external
evidence were needed to establish the latter position, it would
find sufficient support in the intrinsic worth of the composition.
The Monthly Review,2 on the other hand, pronounces a
quite contrary opinion:
We must, nevertheless, take the liberty to say, that if the
authenticity of the posthumous \vritings now before us had not
been placed beyond all doubt, we should have hesitated to be-
lieve that they had proceeded from the author of The Mys-
teries of Udolpho.'
The London Literary Gasette* says that the romance is,
'to our taste, much finer than the other works of the author/
In this romance, Mrs. Radcliffe has abandoned the principle
to which she confined herself in her former works, and has taken
advantage of ghostly aid. A spectre is introduced as a principal
agent in the awful plot of Gaston de Blondeville; and we
venture to anticipate that this unearthly being will be pronounced
one of the most solemn creatures in our language.
Again, the opposite opinion is presented in the Edinburgh
1 18. 703. June, 1826.
1 N. S. 2. 28a July, 1826.
'May 27, 1826. ,>
4 July, 1834.
If anything1 . . . could reconcile us to Mrs. Ra deli fife's
system of explaining every thing by natural causes in her former
romances, it would be to see how completely in this she has
failed in the management of a true spirit.
For the most part, however, the reviewers seem to have
welcomed the publication of these posthumous works as an
opportunity for a resume and appreciation of Mrs. Rad-
cliffe's work in general. The article in the Edinburgh
Review, just quoted, was a review, not of Gaston de Blonde-
inlle in particular, but of the poems which accompanied it,
which had been reprinted, and apparently announced as
new volumes, in 1834. The ending of the review resembles
many of the others in the almost affectionate admiration
which it shows for Mrs. Radcliffe, even while recognizing
some of her imperfections:
We must now bid adieu to these poems. They are little
calculated certainly to increase the reputation of Mrs. Radcliffe ;
1 and perhaps her friends would have acted more judiciously if
they had allowed them to remain in that obscurity in which they
were left by their amiable authoress. Yet we are glad of the
opportunity they have afforded us of expressing our admiration
of her powers as a writer of romance, and of reviving in some
measure the recollection of that fascination which her scenes of
beauty and terror once exercised over our fancy. That a
critical perusal of them at the present moment, with the cool eye
of middle age, would probably point out to us many incongrui-
ties, and many weaknesses, is very probable. It is an experiment
which we should take care not to hazard. We prefer leaving
them as they float at present in our memory, here and there
freshly remembered in their better parts, the rest fading into
distance and half forgotten; on the whole, a pleasing pageant
of gloomy castles and caves, — moon-illumined streets and pal-
aces,— dance and Provencal song, and vintage mirth, — aerial
music floating over fairy-haunted forests, — or choral chant of
monk or nun, borne to the ear over the still waters of the
Looking over the reviews of Mrs. Radcliffe's work, one
finds them, on the whole, distinctly favorable. Indeed, most
52 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
of them are more than this ; they are warmly enthusiastic.
Even the first book, weak as it is in comparison with her
later efforts, is spoken of in terms that would not entirely
discourage a young author. A Sicilian Romance, as we
have seen^ received a considerable degree of praise, and
from the time of the publication of The Romance of the
Forest, probably no writer of fiction could vie with her in
j)p4)ujajtiiyJ__The reviews of her posthumous works give
more general comment on her position as an author than the
reviews of individual novels, jjng1 speaVc nf h**r as 'the,
finest writer in this kind of fiction that ever existed,' and as
'confessedly at the head of her class.' Another2 refers to
the volumes of poetry published in 1834 as 'the last relic of
a highly-gifted and amiable mind, which, in its day, exer-
cised no mean influence over the spirit of literature, and the
charm of whose productions has perhaps been acknowledged
more universally, and with less dispute, than that of any
other writer of fiction.' The same writer goes on to say that
Mrs. Radcliffe's reputation has suffered from the many imi-
tators who tried to use her methods, without possessing her
But Mrs. Radcliffe was as truly an inventor, a great and
original writer in the department she had struck out for her-
self— whether that department was of the highest kind or not —
as the Richardsons, Fieldings, and Smolletts, whom she suc-
ceeded and for a time threw into the shade; or the Ariosto of
the North, before whom her own star has paled its ineffectual
When we consider the almost unanimous expressions of
admiration which these reviews contain, the suggestion in
some of the obituary notices that unfavorable criticism
caused Mrs. Radcliffe to give up her writing seems hardly
reasonable. It is true that certain of the reviews contained
qualifying judgments — that many critics objected to her
1 London Literary Gazette, May 27, 1826.
1 Edinburgh Review, July, 1834.
use of description, or detected errors in her local color.
But the praise far overbalanced the blame, and no author
of sense could object to intelligent and reasonable criticism.
The only comment which might have seriously hurt the
feelings of a writer sensitive to public opinion is found in an
article on Terrorist Novel Writing in the Spirit of Public
Journals for i^y/.1 This is in the form of a letter, ridi-
culing the novels 'in which it has been the fashion to make
terror the order of the day/ and it is followed by a note
which has a rather sneering tone :
It is easy to see that the satire of this letter is particularly
levelled at a literary lady of considerable talent, who has pre-
sented the world with three novels, in which she has found out
the secret of making us 'fall in love with what we fear to look
on/ . . . The system of terror which she has adopted is not
the only reproach to which she is liable. Besides the tedious
monotony of her descriptions, she affects in the most disgusting
manner a knowledge of languages, countries, customs, and ob-
jects of art of which she is lamentably ignorant. She suspends
tripods from the ceiling by chains, not knowing that a tripod
is a utensil standing upon three feet— She covers the kingdom
of Naples with India figs because St. Pierre has introduced N
those tropical plants in his tales, of which the scene is laid in
India — and she makes a convent of monks a necessary appendage
to a monastery of nuns. This shows how well a lady under-
stands the wants of her sex. Whenever she introduces an
Italian word it is sure to be a gross violation of the language.
Instead of making a nobleman's servant call him Padrone, or
lllustrissimo, she makes him address him by the title of Maestro,
which is Italian for a teacher. She converts the singular of
Laszaroni into Lazzaro, etc. etc. etc.
This lady's husband told a friend that he was going to Ger-
many with his wife, the object of whose journey was to pick
• up materials for a novel. I think in that case answered his
friend, that you had better let her go alone 1
It would seem, however, that, if there were enough un-
favorable criticisms to affect Mrs. Radcliffe to any great
* i. 323.
54 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
degree, they must have appeared, not in magazines of the
better class, but in more ephemeral periodicals, not accessible
to us to-day.
One sure t^cHrnnnyJO popularity is irjTJtatjnn^flriH of that
MrsTRadcUffe had her full share. This has bserrTmlor-
tunate for her reputation, for not enough distinction has
been madelfefweeti'the original and the very inferior copies.
From about 1795 on, we find reviewed a constant succession
of novels, the only distinction of which seems to be a more
or less successful imitation of Mrs. Radcliffe's style. A'
review of Austenburn Castle, in I796,1 tells us the plight of
Since Mrs. Radcliffe's justly admired and successful romances,
the press has teemed with stories of haunted castles and vis-
ionary terrors; the incidents of which are so little diversified,
that criticism is at a loss to vary its remarks.
A reference to the number of imitations occurs in a review
of Valombrosa, or the Venetian Nun, in i8o52 :
Amongst the numerous, or, to speak with more propriety,
innumerable/imitations of 'the Mysteries of Udolpho,' with which
the press has groaned, we must rank the present production.
As late as 1812, when we should imagine Mrs. Radcliffe's
vogue to have been somewhat past, we have notice of an-
other attempt to rival her, Rosalie, or the Castle of Montala-
One thing is noticeable — that the reviewers all make care-
ful distinction between Mrs. Radcliffe and her imitators, a
distinction which later critics have not always observed.
The same attitude is taken as a rule by her contemporaries
whenever they comment upon her. They seem to have
realized that she had originated, or at least developed to a
high degree, a really new style of writing, and that she was
1 Critical Review, N. Ar. 16. 222.
* Critical Review, N. Ar. 43. 329.
'Monthly Review 67.320.
not responsible for the abuse which it received at the hands
of lesser authors. This attitude is expressed in a passage in
one of Miss Sewafd's letters, August 3, I7941 :
I read not, neither doubtless do you, the Novel trash of the
day. Hours are too precious for such frivolous waste, where
the mind has in itself any valuable resources ; yet are there a
few pens which possess the power so to inspirit those fond
fancies of the brain, as to render them gratifying to an imagin-
ation which demands more to please it than amorous story.
Mrs. Radcliffe's pen is of this number. Though she aims not
at the highly important morality of the great Richardson, nor
possesses scarce a portion of his ample, his matchless ability, in
' Yet does she mount, and keep her distant way
Above the limits of the vulgar page.'
A book entitled Literary Memoirs of Living Authors of
Great Britain, published in 1798, speaks of Mrs. Radcliffe as
'a lady of great distinction in the literary world as a Novel-
writer. . . . Her powers of pleasing, in this line of
composition, are very singularly great ; and the happy com-
bination of various talents which her pieces display, entitles
their author to rank among the first novel-writers of her
age/ Two French biographical works, published shortly
after her death, have extended notices of her: — the Bio-
graphie Universelle? and the Biographie Nouvelle des Con-
temp orains* ,'
This discussion of Mrs. Radcliffe as estimated by her con-
temporaries has, of necessity, presented many anonymous
judgments, for the revie.ws in magazines of the time were,
for the most part, unsigned. They are important, however,
since the leading magazines reflected to a considerable extent
the general literary opinion. One might with good excuse
include here the opinions 'of some of the more famous
. * Letters
56 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Tims
authors who were practically her contemporaries — men like
Hazlitt and Leigh Hunt, Byron and Shelley. But their
period of production came later than hers, so that they seem
to belong: to a different generation. Moreover, their judg-
ments of her, and the general question of her influence upon
them, have been already more discussed than the points
which I am intending to treat here. My attempt has been
to show how Mrs. Radcliffe's books were received~6n their
appearance, to consider her as an active writer, rather than
to estimate her influence upon the literature of a later period.
It is well to remember, however, that not only those of her
own generation, but many in the generation succeeding,
read her works with interest and admiration. In the Ro-
mantic movement she was a transitional figure, developing
and passinef-on-^to the later men tendencies and themes with
*"' I. , „ _ i. I ' " '- ,|- , , |M
which the earlier ones had been experimenting ; and it was
her extreme popularity, as shown in these contemporary
expressions, which enabled her to pass on so rnttefrT"
Section 2. Sources of the Novels.
The first two of Mrs. Radcliffe's novels point to no very
definite source. They show in general more influence from
Walpole and Clara Reeve than the later books. The
Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne resembles The Castle of
Otranto in having for one of its principal characters a noble-
natured young man, supposedly a peasant, who turns out
to be a long-missing heir, and who finally makes a happy
marriage. The same theme was used in The Old English
A Sicilian Romance uses Walpole's scheme of pretending
to find his story in an old manuscript. The story itself,
however, does not show much resemblance to either of its
predecessors, unless we see in the Marquis* cruel and unjust
treatment of his wife and daughters some suggestion of
The Castle of Otranto.
In The Romance of the Forest Mrs. Radcliffe seems to
declare her source frankly :
Whoever has read Guyot de Pitaval, the most faithful of
those writers who record the proceedings in the Parliamentary
Courts of Paris, during the seventeenth century, must surely
.remember the striking story of Pierre de la Motte, and the
Marquis Phillipe de Montalt; let all such, therefore, be in-
formed, that the person here introduced to their notice was that
individual Pierre de la Motte.1
A search through de Pitaval's Causes Celebres, however,
has failed to reveal any suit recorded under these names.
The only place, apparently, where the name La Motte oc-
curred, was in connection with an entirely different suit.
Whether Mrs. Radcliffe took some one of the stories, and
changed the names, or whether she merely ascribed her
story to de Pitaval, to have a plausible-sounding source,
Mrs. Radcliffe would have been most likely to know de
Pitaval, perhaps, in a series of stories which were translated
and adapted from the Causes Celebres by Charlotte Smith,
in 1787, under the title The Romance of Real Life. The
probability that she was familiar with this work is increased
by the fact that she and Charlotte Smith both have the same
misspelling of de Pitaval's name, writing it Guyot instead
of Gayot. One of these stories might have given some
suggestion for The Romance of the Forest. This is the
account of Mademoiselle de Choiseul. In this, the Duke de
la Valliere promised his sister to take care of her child:
. . . but when he found that, by suppressing what he knew
of her birth, he should divide considerable property as heir to
that sister, he scrupled not to violate every promise he had given
her, not only on the birth of her child, but again when she was
dying; and now, when her daughter claimed her own property,
desired to have authentic proof of what he knew better than any-
one— proofs, which it was more difficult for her to bring, as all
1 Romance of the Forest, p. 2.
5 8 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
the family papers were in the hands of the very person who de~
manded them, and whose interest it was to conceal every me-
morial of the contested fact.1
This is not unlike the situation in The Romance of the
Forest. Here the Marquis has actually had his brother put
to death, in order to get the money which that brother had
inherited from his wife. The young daughter is put in a
convent, and, when she refuses to take the veil, the Marquis
orders her death. When, later on, he finds that she has
escaped his cruel commands, he tells La Motte to kill her.
Again his tool fails to obey. At the end of the story the
truth is revealed. Adeline is to appear in a trial-scene
under very similar circumstances to those in The Romance
of Real Life, when the trial is made unnecessary by the
suicide of the Marquis.
We still find in The Romance of the Forest details in-
herited from Walpole and Clara Reeve. One of the most
striking resemblances in situation is Adeline's dream when
she has been reading the manuscript she finds in the room
net, hers in the old abbey.2 It is very similar to Edmund's
dream in The Old English Baron, and the cause is. the same.
Adeline, like Edmund, is sleeping near the unburied bones
of her father. Incidentally it may be remarked that this is
one touch of the supernatural which Mrs. Radcliffe does not
~~"ln regard to The Mysteries of Udolpho, one source is
mentioned by Green in his Diary of a Lover of Literature9:
Read the first volume of Mrs. Piozzi's Travels in Italy. Tol-
erably amusing, but for a pert flippancy, and ostentation of
learning. Mrs. Radcliffe has taken from this work her vivid
description of Venice and of the Brenta, but oh ! how improved
in the transcript.
• '* Romance of Real Life 3. 136.
' Nov. 25, 1800. Quoted in the Gentleman's Magazine, N. S. I. 10.
This suggestion is interesting, because it shows us some-
thing of Mrs. Radcliffe's methods of work. She evidently
had more groundwork of fact in her descriptions than she
was sometimes given credit for; she took the authentic
record of actual travel, and let her imagination play about
it. A comparison of a few passages from The Mysteries of
Udolpho with corresponding passages from Mrs. Piozzi's
Journey will show that one was undoubtedly the source of
the other ; in fact, at times the resemblance is so close that
we wonder that Mrs. Piozzi did not claim credit as a
Take first the description of the Brenta itself. Mrs.
Piozzi's version1 :
It was on the twenty-first of May then that we returned up
the Brenta in a barge to Padua, stopping from time to time to
give refreshment to our conductors and their horse, which
draws on the side, as one sees them at Richmond; where the
banks are scarcely more beautifully adorned by art, than here by
nature; though the Brenta is a much narrower river than the
Thames at Richmond, and its villas, so justly celebrated, far
less frequent. The sublimity of their architecture however,
the magnificence of their orangeries, the happy construction of
the cool arcades, and general air of festivity which breathes
upon the banks of this truly wizard stream, planted with dancing,
not weeping willows, to which on a bright evening the lads and
lasses run for shelter from the sun beams, Et fugit ad salices, et
se cupit ante videri ; are I suppose, peculiar to itself.
The noble Brenta, pouring its broad waves into the sea, now
appeared, and, when she reached its mouth, the barge stopped,
that the horses might be fastened which were to tow it up the
stream. This done, Emily gave a last look to the Adriatic, and
to the dim sail,
That from the sky-mix'd wave
Dawns on the sight,
* Observations and Reflections made in the Course of a Journey
through France, Italy and Germany, p. 221.
1 Mysteries of Udolpho 2. 121.
60 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
and the barge slowly glided between the green and luxuriant
slopes of the river. The grandeur of the Palladian villas, that
adorn these shores, was considerably heightened by the setting
* rays, which threw strong contrasts of light and shade upon the
porticos and long arcades, and beamed a mellow lustre upon the
orangeries and tall groves of pine and cypress, that overhung
the buildings. The scent of oranges, of flowering myrtles, and
other odoriferous plants was diffused upon the air, and often,
from these embowered retreats, a strain of music stole on the
calm, and 'softened into silence.'
Mrs. Radcliffe here makes an addition very characteristic
of her — the setting sun. She is rarely content to give us
merely the features of the landscape; she shows them as
affected by atmospheric conditions. Also her description
becomes more vivid than Mrs. Piozzi's from her inclusion
of odors and sounds, as well as those things which appeal to
the sense of sight. Both give much the same impression of
the ladies of Venice. •
Mrs. Piozzi1 :
A Venetian lady has in particular so sweet a manner naturally
that she really charms without any settled intent to do so, merely
from that irresistible good-humor and mellifluous tone of voice
which seize the soul, and detain it in despite of Juno-like
majesty, or Minerva-like wit.
Mrs. Radcliffe2 :
In the evening, Madame Montoni . . . received visits
from some Venetian ladies, with whose sweet manners Emily
was particularly charmed. They had an air of ease and kindness
towards the strangers, as if they had been their familiar friends
for years; and their conversation was by turns tender, senti-
mental, and gay.
Another comparison will show that one of Mrs. Rad-
cliffe's most famous passages,3 although she — once more
1 Op. cit.t p. 183.
* Op. cit., p. 67.
' The one which Byron recalls in Childe Harold, Canto 4, stanza I.
aided by the setting sun — has added much, is not entirely
her own inspiration.
Mrs. Piozzi1 :
St. Mark's place, after all I had read and all I had heard of
it, exceeded expectation; such a cluster of excellence, 'such a
constellation of artificial beauties, my mind had never ventured
to excite the idea of within herself; though assisted with all
the powers of doing so which painters can bestow, and with all
the advantages derived from verbal and written description.
... . The general effect produced by such architecture, such
painting, such pillars; illuminated as I saw them last night by
the moon at full, rising out of the sea, produced an effect like
enchantment. . . . From the top [of the tower in St Mark's
Place] is presented to one's sight the most striking of all pros-
pects, water bounded by land — not land by water. The curious
and elegant islets upon which, and into which, the piles of Venice
are driven, exhibiting clusters of houses, churches, palaces, every
thing — started up in the midst of the sea, so as to excite amaze-
Mrs. Radcliffe2 :
Nothing cculd exceed Emily's admiration, on her first view of
Venice, with its islets, palaces, and towers rising out of the sea,
whose clear surface reflected the tremulous picture in all its
colours. The sun, sinking in the west, tinted the waves and the
lofty mountains of Friuli, which skirts the northern shores of
the Adriatic, with a saffron glow, while on the marble porticos
and colonnades of St. Mark were thrown the rich lights and
shades of evening. As they glided on, the grander features of
this city appeared more distinctly ; its terraces, crowned with airy
yet majestic fabrics, touched, as they now were, with the
splendour of the setting sun, appeared as if they had been
called up from the ocean by the wand of an enchanter, rather
than reared by mortal hands.
Several other passages might be quoted, but these are
probably enough to show Mrs. Radcliffe's debt to Mrs.
1 Observations, etc., p. 151.
' Mysteries of Udolpho 2. 35.
Ann Rcdcliffe in Relation to Her Time
Another possible source for the trip on the Brenta may
be found in Schiller's Ghostseer1 :
Our little voyage was exceedingly delightful. A picturesque
country, which at every winding of the river seem>'<l to increase
in richness. and beauty; the serenity of the sky, which formed a
May day in the middle of February; the charming gardens and
elegant country-seats which adorned the banks of the Brenta;
the majestic city of Venice behind us, with its lofty spires, and
a forest of masts, rising as it were out of the waves; all this
afforded us one of the most splendid prospects in the world.
One difficulty here, however, is that the English trans-
lation of Dcr Geisterscher did not appear until 1795, too
late to have had any influence upon The Mysteries of Udol-
pho. Unless we are to think that Mrs. Radcliffe was famil-
iar with the original, we must consider the resemblance in
the passages as merely accidental. We have perhaps no
positive reason fqr concluding that she did not know the
original. Buyers, in an article on The Influence of Schil-
ler's Drama and Fiction upon English Literature* says :
Mrs. Radcliffe, apparently, knew no German, nor are there
any references to German literature in her account of a Journey
through Holland and the western frontier of Germany,
This is, however, rather negative proof. Moreover,
Buyers seems to forget his own conclusion when to his
statement, 'Schedoni alone of Mrs. RadclinVs characters
seems to owe something to the influence of Schiller/ he
adds this note :
Since this was written, it has struck me that very possibly
Montoni may be a fearsome blend of the Armenian and the
If The Ghostseer could influence the character of Mon-
toni, Mrs. RadclifTe must certainly have had some knowl-
edge of the book prior to the writing of The Mysteries of
*En%itick* Studien 48. 350.
Buyers seems justified in pointing out Mrs. Raddiffe's
indebtedness to The Ghostseer in The Italian, although he is
perhaps not quite accurate in saying that Schiller's influence
is found only hi the character of Schedoni. It is not Sche-
doni who speaks in the voice of warning and prophecy ; it is
the mysterious monk of Paluzzi, Schedoni's enemy.
But, as he points out, there are several scenes which show
striking similarity. One which he mentions takes place
between Vivaldi and the monk, when Vivaldi is on his way
to see Ellena :
'You are too late/ said a sudden voice beside Vivaldi, who
instantly re< ognized the thrilling accents of the monk. 'It is
past midnight ; she departed an hour ago. Look to your steps !'
This certainly does suggest the words of the Armenian.
in The Ghostseer. 'Neun Uhr.' 'Wiinschen sie sich Gluck,
prinz. Um neun Uhr ist er gestorben.'
Vivaldi's comment is :
I am warned of evils that await me, of events that are regu-
larly fulfilled; the being who warns me crosses my path per-
petually, yet, with the cunning of a demon, as constantly eludes
my grasp and baffles my pursuit.
This is very much like the reflection in The Ghostseer1 :
A superior power attends me. Omniscience surrounds me.
An invisible Being whom I cannot escape, watches over my steps.
Mrs. Radcliffe also may have been indebted to The Ghost-
seer for Schedoni's crime — the murder of his brother in
order to marry the brother's wife.
One other resemblance may be pointed out between the
two works. The Sicilian's explanation of his tricks, after
he has puzzled his audience with them, may suggest Mrs.
Radcliffe's method of explaining the apparently supernat-
ural. We could hardly give Schiller the credit of originat-
ing her method, however, since she used it to some extent
from the first.
1 P. 386.
64 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
Another- question of comparison occurs in the consider-
ation of The Italian. This is the question of its connection
with The Monk of Matthew Gregory Lewis.
Lewis made the statement in a letter to his mother1 that
it was the reading of The Mysteries of Udolpho, during his
trip abroad, which gave,, him the inspiration to go on with
the romance which he had begun. It seems possible that
Lewis' novel had some reciprocal influence upon Mrs. Rad-
cliffe's work, at least to the extent of leading her to select a
monk as her central figure. She had, it is true, made con-
siderable use of religious machinery in her earlier books.
In A Sicilian Romance Julia takes refuge in a convent, and
so does Emily in The Mysteries of Udolpho. Mrs. Rad-
cliffe's attitude toward monastic life is interestingT as ail"
artist she seems to have been fascinated by it ; as a human
being, she was repelled.
This mixture of feeling comes out in her comment on
some of the English Lake scenery, where she is remarking
on its resemblance to the Rhine :
(Once too, there were other points of resemblance, in the ruins
of monasteries and convents, which, though reason rejoices that
they no longer exist, the eye may be allowed to regret.*
In The Italian, however, the dominating power is the
Church; and the figure of Schedoni — sinister, mysterious,
and apparently austere, but inwardly depraved — is not unlike
Lewis' conception of his Monk. In part this resemblance
may be explained by the theory that both have a common
source. A review of The Monk3 suggests that the character
of the wandering Jew, in Lewis' book, is 'copied as to its
more prominent features from Schiller's incomprehensible
Armenian/ The Armenian may also in some details have
influenced Lewis' picture of his monk, and Mrs. Radcliffe's
1 Life and Correspondence of M. G. Lewis I. 123.
* Journey 2. 250.
* Critical Review, N. Ar. 191 104.
inspiration for Schedoni may have come directly from The
Ghostseer, and not from Lewis at all. It would not seem
unlikely, however, that, finding him successful with this
theme, she resolved to try her hand at it. Lewis' book
was probably the only one of the time which rivaled Mrs.
Radcliffe's works in popularity. It made a considerable
stir, in spite of the widespread condemnation of its morals.
She might have thought it worth while to attempt a study
in the same field, which should, however, not be open to the
same objections on the score of morality.
One passage in the Journey through Holland1 seems to
point toward The Italian. It suggests that Mrs. Radcliffe
was not wholly indebted to other writers, but that her own
impressions helped to shape the figure of Schedoni :
Here two Capuchins, belonging probably to the convent above,
as they walked along the shore, beneath the dark cliffs of Bop-
part, wrapt in the long black drapery of their order, and their
heads shrowded in cowls, that half concealed their faces, were
interesting figures in a picture, always gloomily sublime.
This recalls the scene in which Ellena, trying to escape
from the house where she has been confined, meets the
gloomy form of the monk on the sea-shore, and is followed
by him until she is forced to return.
Mrs. Radcliffe's travels came too late to influence her
earlier books. • The last, Cast on de Blondeville, seems to
owe its inspiration almost entirely to one of her expeditions,
her visit to Kenilworth in 1802. Several passages occur in
her account of the trip which seem to contain suggestions
of the story which she developed. One is in her description
of Warwick Castle2: .'
But what struck me most was near the end of the gallery
(when it makes a sudden turn into the tower that terminates
the castle), where appeared before me a broad, yet dark stair-
X2. 64. .
" Memoir, p. 59.
66 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
case of oak, and at the foot of it as if guarding the passage, a
large figufe in complete armour, the beaver down, and a sword
in its hand 1 The general twilight, with the last western gleam
breaking through the painted wirdow at the foot of the stair-
case, and touching the bronze, gave full effect to this scene, and
heightened the obscurity of the stairs, in perspective.
This figure, as she suddenly caught sight of it, probably
had a ghostly effect, and might have suggested to her the
spectre, dressed in the armor of a knight, which plays such a
part in Gasion de Blondeville. Her interest in Kenilworth
led her to study its past history with regrettable industry.
Gaston de Blondeville is the one book in which she made a
conscientious attempt to reproduce the life of the past, and
the result is a wearisome minuteness of detail.
One attempt to connect her literary work with her travels
seems to take no account of times and seasons. Miss
Seward, in a letter written February 4, 1796,* says:
When speaking of Mrs. Radcliffe's Tour, I forgot to observe
the probability that the impressions left on the author's imagin-
ation, by the local vestiges at Hardwicke of the unfortunate
Mary Stewart ; — the bed and chairs, worked by her own fingers ;
— the little confessional, and prayer-book, all preserved exactly
as she left them;— that these objects suggested to Mrs. R.
the idea of the marchioness's apartment in the Mysteries of
Udolpho. I thought that scene much the finest and best
imagined part of the novel.
But, as has been said before, Mrs. Radcliffe made her
tour of the Lakes in the summer of 1794, and The Mysteries
of Udolpho had already been published in the spring of
1794. The sight of the relics of Mary Queen of Scots
could hardly have suggested the Marchioness* apartment,
though the memory of her own imaginative conception
might have increased her interest in this other deserted
1 Letters 4. 151.
Two general sources to which Mrs. Radcliffe is indebted
may be mentioned briefly, though it has been my intention
to confine the discussion to the more definite sources. One
is the German literature which was becoming popular in
England about the time she began writing ; the other is the
Mrs. Radcliffe's obligation to The Ghostseer has been
mentioned. We know that she greatly admired The Rob-
bers. Lord Woodhouselee's English translation of the
latter appeared in 1792, and she was probably familiar with
it before writing The Mysteries of Udolpho. Traces of its
influence can be f Qund.in.liet.hero-villains, such as Montoni
and Schedoni, who are in a sense outlaws; in her tendency
toward strained aiid extravagant situations ; and in her sen-
timentality. It must be said, however, that Mrs. Radcliffe
never showed the confused sense of moral responsibility
which characterized the German school.
(Jhe Elizabethan influence is. even stronger. Not only
do we find in the informal notes of Mrs. Radcliffe's journals
references to Shakespeare which show an intimate knowl-
edge of his plays, but in the novels scene after scene is*
found which is evidently of Shakespearian inspiration. Sev-
eral situations in The Mysteries of Udolpho recall Macbeth.
Among these are the half-crazed ravings of the dying nun1;
the rising from the table m confusion, when Montoni V
story is interrupted by the mysterious voice ; and the sound-
ing of the portal-bell as Emily enters the castle. Another
strong resemblance to Macbeth is found in The Italian, when
Schedoni and the assassin Spalatro are disputing as to who
shall murder Ellena, and the Confessor ends the matter
with the words, 'Give me the dagger, then.' The influence
of Hamlet seems discernible in the whole circumstance of
the mysterious figure which is seen on the terrace outside
of Emily's window.2 The whole of Gaston de Blondeville
1 Mysteries of Udolpho 4. 362.
1 Ibid. 3. 73-4-
Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
is built on the theme of Hamlet, and in the Introduction we
have a direct reference to it in the remark that Warwick
Castle has towers 'that would do honour to Hamlet/
Without going further into the consideration of parallel
situations and parallel themes, one may say that Mrs. Rad-
cliffe's work shows plainly her admiration for Shakespeare
and her familiarity with him, and also that in tendency and
theme she suggests not only Shakespeare but the later Eliz-
abethans, with their inclination toward the sensational and
the gruesome. The fact that, just before Mrs. Radcliffe
began writing, there had been a considerable revival of in-
terest in Elizabethan plays, both on the stage and in publi-
cation, makes this influence seem a very natural one.1
Section J. Translations and Dramatic Versions.
In the account given of Mrs. Radcliffe in the Biographic
Nouvelle des Contcmporains we have this statement :
Les Romans d'Anne Radcliffe ont etc traduit dans presque
toutes les langues de 1'Europe.
A list of French translations follows :
Les Chateaux de Dumblaine et d'Athlin, 1819.
La Foret. ou I'Abbaye de Saint-Clair, 1798.
Julia, ou les Souterrains du Chateau de Mazzini, 1801.
Les Mysteres d' Udolphe (ce roman, souvent reimprimS, a 6t£
traduit en franc.ais, 4 vol. in- 12, 1794).
1 Professor Thorndike, in chap. IX of his book on Tragedy, gives a
list of thirteen old plays revived in the decade 1778-1788. An-
other play which he does not mention is Ardeti of Feversham,
which received its first performance in 1790. Between the years
1708 and 1765, seven editions of Shakespeare's works were published.
Editions of Massinger were brought out in 1759; 1761, and 1779.
In 1744, Dodsley published twelve volumes- of Old Plays, and these
were reprinted, with some changes, by Isaac Reed in 1780. In
1773 another collection was published by Hawkins. An edition of
Beaumont and Fletcher's plays was brought out in 1778. We also
find evidence of the printing of individual plays: The Witch, by
Middleton, was first published in 1778, and The Atheist's Tragedy of
Tourneur was reprinted in 1792.
Voyage fait dans Vet6 de 1794 en Holland e et sur la frontifrt
d'Allemagne, avec des observations faites dans une tournee pres
des lacs de Lancashire, Westmoreland, et Cumberland, 1795.
Second edition, 1709. Translated by Cantwel.
L'ltalien, ou le Confessional des Penitens noirs, translated by
the Abbe Morellet. Several editions, 1795-1819.
•Eleonore de Rosalba, another translation of The Italian, by
Mary Guy Allard.
The Catalogue of the British Museum has the following
list, varying somewhat from the one just given:
Les Chateaux d'Athlin et de Dunbayne. Roman traduit de
1'anglais . . . par 1'auteur des Memoires de Cromwell etc.
2 torn. Paris, 1819.
Cast on de Blondeville . . . Roman . . . traduit de
1'anglais par le traducteur des romans de Sir W. Scott [A. J. B.
Defauconpret]. 3 torn. Paris, 1826.
Les Mysteres d'Udolphe . . . Traduit de 1'anglais sur la
troisieme edition, par V. de Chastenay. 6 torn. Paris, 1808.
French imitations of Mrs. Radcliffe's works are also
given here :
Barbarinski, ou les Brigands du chateau de Wissegrade. Imite
de 1'anglais d'Anne Radcliffe. 2 torn. Paris, 1818, par Madame
la Comtesse de Nardouet.
Le Panache rouge, c-u le Spectre de Feu, Smite" de 1'anglais
d'Anne Radcliff, par Madame la Comtesse de Nardouet 2 torn.
Several Italian versions are also listed, and it is interesting
to note that these are all late editions :
GK Assassini di Ercolano. (Romanzo . . . traduzione del
Francese [i. e. a French version of Mrs. Radcliffe's "Romance
of 'the Forest."]. Edizione ricorretta e splendidamente illustrata.
/ Sotteranei di Maszini . . . [An Italian Version of the
"Sicilian Romance."] Con illustrazioni. Milano, 1883.
Giulia ; o, i Sotteranei del Castello di Mazzini, etc. [A version
of "A Sicilian Romance."] Milano, 1889.
The Yale Library possesses a copy of a Spanish version
of A Sicilian Romance, entitled Julia o Los Subterraneos del
Castillo de Mazzini.
70 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
Novela escrita en ingles par Mail de Radcliff. Traduicida
del frances al castellano. Par I. M. P. Valencia, 1819.
Mobius, in his dissertation on The Gothic Romance, gives
a list of German translations :
Die Nachtliche Erscheinung im Schlosse Mazzini, [A Sicilian
Romance.] Hannover, 1792. Translated by D. M. Liebeskind.
Adeline oder das Abenteuer im Walde. [Romance of the
Forest.] Leipzig, Bohme, 1793. D. M. Liebeskind.
Udolphos Gehtimnisse. Riga, Hartknoch, 1795. D. M.
Die Italienerin, oder der Beichtstuhl der Schwarzen Biissenden.
Konigsberg, Nicolovius, 1797. D. M. Liebeskind.
Ellena, die Jtalienerin, oder die Warnungen in den Ruinen von
The German translators of The Italian, it appears, did
not realize that Schedoni was meant to be the dominant
figure in the book, since in translating they made the word
feminine, and so threw the emphasis upon Ellena and her
sufferings. The mistake is a fairly good comment, how-
ever, on the unsatisfactory nature of the title. There was
no particular point in giving to one figure the title of The
Italian, when all the personages of the story were supposed
to be of that nationality,
doulrtmany other translations exist which do not
of which we have
record give testimony to the popularity of Mrs?a7!cliffe in
othejr. cpunfrles than her ownr
Besides the FFelicTrT6niances"%ritten in imitation of her,
there appears in the British Museum Catalogue one dramatic
Le Chateau des Apennins ou le Fantome Vivant, drame en
cinq actes, en prose. I mite du roman Anglais, les Mysteres
d'Udolphe [of Anne Radcliffe, by R. C. Guilbert de Pixere-
court] Paris, 1799.
English dramatists did notjieglectjthe opportimjty_ which
Mrs7T?adcin??s~^Yorks gave for stage-thrills. Hfir_sl0ries_
were quite in accord with the theatrical fashions of the day, )
especially with the German influence, which, beginning with j
The Robbers, culminated in the 'Kotzebue-mania.' They \
offered sentiment, as well as spectacular scenes, and her \
use of suspense made her books particularly suitable for
A Sicilian Romance was dramatized by Henry Siddons,
son of the great actress, and was first performed at Covent
Garden, May 28, 1794. The consensus of opinion seems
to have been that the play was decidedly inferior to the
novel. Genest says of }t:
This Op. in 3 short acts was written by Henry Siddons.
. . . It is founded on Mrs. Radcliffe's Romance of the same
name, . . . The Romance is interesting, . . . but H.
Siddons has dramatized it most vilely.*
Comments upon the play, not particularly enthusiastic,
appear in the European Magazine* and the Critical Review.*
Not much more praise was given to the dramatization of
The Romance of the Forest, by James Boaden. This play,
under the title of Fontainville Forest, was first acted at
Covent Garden, March 25, 1794. Genest's comment is:
This is a moderate play by Boaden. . . . The plot is pro-
fessedly borrowed from the Romance of the Forest ...
The last scene of the 3'd act is rendered contemptible by the in-
troduction of a Phantom.
A later entry, Jan. 8, 1796, mentions the performance of the
play, 'compressed into 4 acts by the author.' Reviews of the
play appear in the European Magazine* in the Critical
Review? in the English Review? and in the British Critic."1
1 History of the English Stage. C. G. May 28, 1794.
' N. Ar. 13. 338. March, 1795.
4 25. 308.
*N. Ar. ii. 409.
72 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
.We should have expected The Mysteries of Udolpho,
from its popularity and the dramatic quality of its situations,
to receive effective treatment on the stage ; but the only
play which seems to have any connection with it owed little
to the novel, and did not meet with great success. This was
The Mysteries of the Castle, by Miles Peter Andrews, pre-
sented at Covent Garden, January 31, 1795. The European
Magazine* says of it :
In this drama it was expected that The Mysteries of Udolpho*
would have furnished the principal part of the plot. The name
of Montoni only is taken from thence, but the character exhibits
few of the daring, bold qualities of that fierce assassin.
Although nothing else is taken from Udolpho, Mr. Andrews has
availed himself of a striking incident in The Sicilian Romance'
of the same Author, which forms the tragic part of this absurd
mixture of tragedy, comedy, farce, opera, and pantomime.
The Critical Review* remarks :
It is one of those pieces which must depend on song and
scenery. The story is partly taken from Mrs. Radcliffe's excel-
lent romance; but we fear that lady will not feel herself
flattered by the relationship.
Mr. Boaden tried his hand at a dramatization of The
Italian, in The Italian Monk, acted at the Haymarket,
August 15, 1797. The reviews of this play are for the most
part less favorable than those of Fontainville Forest. The
comment of Genest upon it is :
This play in 3 acts is Mrs. Radcliffe's interesting Romance
badly dramatized by Boaden. ... It is written partly in
blank verse and partly in prose. . . . It would' have been
better if the whole had been in prose.
A scathing review appeared in The Monthly Visitor for
August, I797-3 In this, The Italian Monk is considered as
a sort of parody on The Italian. Mr. Boaden is blamed for
*N. Ar. 14. iox.
9 2. 157.
changing the characters, and for introducing needless buf-
foonery. His only successful passages, according to this
writer, are those in which he keeps very close to Mrs. Rad-
cliffe's own words.
Certainly the songs, quoted in some of the reviews, and
published separately in the Lady's Magazine for September,
I797,1 are not at all in keeping with the sombre tone of Mrs.
Radcliffe's book. One of them is sung by Fioresca, a char-
acter created by Mr. Boaden, to make a sweetheart for
Paullo, the (supposedly) humorous servant : i-
Other maidens bait their hooks ,;
With practis'd glances, tender looks,
And study tricks from subtle books,
To hold the lover fast.
Their golden line of locks so fine
Before his simple eye they cast,
With bending bait, and swimming gait,
To make him sure at last.
Nonny, nonny, nonnino,
Nonny, nonny, nonnino,
Nonny, nonny, nonnino—
To make him sure at last.
When the village youth would bear
Me trinkets from the distant fair, .
However they were rich or rare,
My Paullo pleased me best:
What though, the work of costly art,
They call'd for praise in ev'ry part ?
My Paullo with it gave his heart ;
And what was all the rest,
Nonny, nonny, etc.
And what was all the rest?
Mr. Boaden also changed the character of Schedoni, and
the whole climax of the plot. Instead of having actually
murdered his brother, the monk merely thinks he has
murdered his wife. In the end he discovers his mistake,
Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
and is happily reunited to her, instead of dying in agony,
as in Mrs. Radcliffe's version.
On the whole, The Italian Monk seems to have been quite
in the fashion of the day. It was much the sort of thing
which Lewis did in The Castle Spectre, a hash of melo-
drama and absurdity, with here and there a touch of flip-
pancy, showing that the author himself did not take it very
seriously. It surely is not an adequate dramatization of
The Italian, a book which contains material for an excellent
melodrama, or even, perhaps, if correctly managed, a gen-
Mrs. Radcliffe's last romance was dramatized, but appar-
ently never produced. The play Gaston de Blondeville is
published in the Dramatic Works of Mary Russell Mitford.
In the introduction to the 1854 edition1 the author makes
the statement :
'Sadak and Kalasrade' was written to gratify a young musician,
and 'Gaston de Blondeville' because I thought, and still think,
that the story, taken from Mrs. Radcliffe's posthumous romance,
would be very effective as mere spectacle — a play to look at —
upon the stage.
In one of her letters2 Miss Mitford wrote :
William Harness has been most unexpectedly struck with
'Gaston de Blondeville.' . . . The book from which it was
taken had no story, so that, except the real ghost, and the
first hint of the supernatural pageants, it is really my own.
William declares that it made his blood run cold. ;<
Miss Mitford here seems hardly fair to her source. Her
list of characters is practically the same as Mrs. Radcliffe's,
and the play follows closely the sequence of events in the
romance. Hugh Woodreeve, the merchant, accuses the
king's favorite of robbery and murder. The merchant is
imprisoned in the tower, and preparations go on for the
bridal of Gaston, the favorite, with the daughter of the Earl
1 P. XXXI.
* Letters and Life 2. 219.
of Huntingdon. The bridal is interrupted by the appearance
of the ghost. The scene of the banquet, with the supernat-
ural pageants, is the same. The merchant is condemned to
be tried for witchcraft. He summons Gaston to the wager
of battle. Then comes the principal change in the story.
Miss Mitford has introduced a new character, Albert, the
page, and there has been hint of a love-affair between him
and Gaston's destined bride. When Woodreeve is in need
of a champion, Albert appears with a scroll proving that he
is the son of Sir Reginald de Tolville, whose ghost has been
demanding vengeance. He fights with Gaston, and, being
young and inexperienced, is about to be overcome, when the
ghost appears. Gaston falls, dropping his sword, and Albert
It is true that the introduction of Albert supplies more
plot-interest. But in view of all that she took from Mrs.
Radcliffe, Miss Mitford does not really seem justified in
saying that the story was entirely her own. In some re-
spects, however, the play has the advantage of the novel.
As some of the critics remarked, the plot of Gaston de
Blondeville had hardly enough complication and incident to
make a complete novel. It does better in the compression of
dramatic form. Then, too, of necessity the ghost must make
fewer appearances, and this makes him more effective.
On the whole, the dramatizations of Mrs. Radcliffe's
stories seem to have had small value of their own. They
are chiefly interesting because they furnish some additional
testimony to her popularity. It must be said, too, that they
emphasize the weaker side of her work, the side which was
in harmony with the melodramatic stage-fashions of the day.
The faults of the novels become more glaring in the plays.
When the drama is in the condition it had reached in the
last decade of the eighteenth century, a novel, in taking to
the stage, must say goodbye to any artistic unity. Shake-
speare's plays, it is true", still held their place, and there had
recently been some revival of interest in minor Elizabethans.
76 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
But the German influx had begun. Monk Lewis and other
translators and adaptors were giving the public a full portion
of what it seemed to want — sensation and sentimentality.
No wonder that any novel which had a supply of these de-
sirable qualities was eagerly seized upon, and too often used
A comment quite to the point was made in the European
Magazine for March, 1799,* in an article entitled Instance of
Posthumous Friendship, with a hint to the Dr&matizers of
It is related of the gypsies, that they commit depredations
upon the poultry of those who reside in distant parts of the
country, while they carefully abstain from attacks on their
immediate neighbors. Such should be the policy of the Romance
clippers of the present day. A young gentleman or young
lady (probably the latter) sits down to write a romance; — good.
The romance happens to have an extensive sale; — good again.
A certain dramatic Author, with more cunning than genius, lays
his unmerciful hands upon the book, melts it down in his scenic
crucible, and vends it as his own. .
By such unfair proceedings, the original Author or Authoress
is reduced to an unfortunate dilemma; — if the play succeeds, it
runs away with all the popularity; if it fails, the failure casts a
shade of ridicule and disgrace on the romance. Thus has it
fared with many a writer's effusions, and particularly with those
natural, moral, and meritorious productions, Caleb Williams,
The Italian, and The Monk; whose fairest flowers are withered
by the dulness of The Iron Chest, The Italian Monk, and Aurelio
We may not wholly agree with this writer when he calls
a book like Lewis' Monk 'natural, moral, and meritorious/
but when he speaks of the 'depredations' of the playwrights,
he is probably characterizing pretty aptly a tendency of the
: 13S. 161.
CONTRIBUTION TO THE NOVEL
Most critics who have given any attention to Mrs. Rad-
cliffe as a novelist have decided that she is important chiefly
for her use of the. supernatural, and for her emphasis upon
landscape. Although she is, indeed, a pioneer in both these
fields, it has seemed to me that, after all, her most important
contribution is a matter not of theme, but of structure.
Dibelius attributes Mrs. Radcliffe's methods almost en-
tirely to the influence of Fielding and Richardson, assisted
by the French romances.1 He works out an elaborate par-
allel between the technique of Fielding and that of the 'new
romances' as originated by Walpole and perfected by Mrs.
Professor Cross, in his History of Henry Fielding, speaks
of both Richardson and Fielding as adopting a dramatic
structure in their stories. 'From the structural point of
view,1 he says, 'this dramatic manner was the novelty that
Richardson at a stroke brought into fiction/2 And in re-
lation to Fielding — ' Being a dramatist, Fielding could not
conceive of a novel without an elaborate plot. . . ;,«'
Upon his plot, too, he depended for keeping his readers alert
through six volumes.'3
It is true that both Richardson and Fielding departed
considerably from the simple picaresque method of Defoe
and Smollett. Most of the incidents of their stories had
their part in the working out of a definitely conceived plan.
But this plan was not, after all, the most important part of
the work. Professor Cross suggests a different point of
lEnglische Romankunst I. 287-8.
78 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
view when he says, ' "Tom Jones" . . . was to be the ful-
filment of that earlier design of a comic epic such as Homer
might have written.'1 And Fielding suggests it himself
when, in the first chapter of Tom Jones, he says that the
provision he has made for his readers is human nature.
Tom Jones develops the picaresque form into an epic, in'
which the hero and hi's adventures show us the men and
manners of a whole period. Fielding does, it is true, experi-
ment with the dramatic structure, but only as an additional
interest, not as an aim in itself. When Dibelius speaks of.
misleading the reader as part of Fielding's technique,2 it
seems to me that he stresses the point too much. We never
feel convinced that Tom is the son of Jenny Jones; we
know that the suggestion is only a cloak to conceal his real
parentage. And when Fielding pretends to be afraid that
he cannot rescue Tom from his calamities,3 we understand
that it is mere pretense, and that within a few chapters a
happy marriage is due. The interesting thing is the process
by which this end is achieved. Tom's reaction upon his
surroundings, and the comprehensive picture of English. life
which the book gives, hold the reader, in my opinion, more
than the working out of the plot. Professor Cross himself
admits that Fielding's method is, .in general, epic rather
than dramatic, when he says, 'Perhaps Fielding did all that
could be done in adapting the structure of the Odyssey to a
novel, but the form at best remains awkward.'*
In Richardson's novels, again, we are not so much in-
terested in what is going to happen as in how it happens,
and in his case the how is a matter of human character.
The people who read Clarissa Harlowe, and begged the
author not to let Clarissa die, did not care whether the end-
ing was a logical development of circumstances ; they were
' I. 122.
9 Tom Jones 3. 247.
4 2. 327.
Contribution to the Novel
interested in the ending because they were interested in
In none of these novelists, then, do we find the main in- ~\
tefest in plot. Character, manners, adventure in and for 1
itself, not necessarily contributing toward the final climax 1
— these are emphasized in the work of Defoe, Richardson, I
Fielding, and Smollett.
. It is not until we reach Walpole that we have a definite
attempt to found the novel upon the technique of the drama.
In his preface to the first edition of The Castle of Otranto,
Walpole says, 'The rules of the drama are almost observed
throughout the piece.' In the preface to the second edition
he defends his inclusion of comic characters by the example
of Shakespeare, who, he says, 'in his deepest tragedies,
has introduced the coarse humor of grave-diggers and
clumsy jests of the Roman citizens/ This, by the way,
seems to oppose Dibelius' theory that the servant as intro-
duced in Mrs. Radcliffe's novels and in The Cattle of
Otranto is imitated from Sancho Panza.1 Not phly.was Mrs.
Radcliffe, in copying Walpole's talkative servants, carrying
on a Shakespearian inspiration, but she may have gone
directly to Shakespeare herself for some of her minor
characters, Her garrulous old women, like Dorothee and
Teresa in The Mysteries of Udolpho, might easily have been
suggested by Juliet 's nurse.—
Walpole's attempt at dramatic structure was a feeble at-
tempt enough, but it contained the essential elements of
the method which Mrs. Radcliffe was to carry to a much
higher development. His aim was to excite the curiosity of
the reader, and keep him waiting for the final denouement.
To a modern reader, however, the whole thing is so absurdly
\ improbable that it excites no curiosity at all, and the climax
\ is a matter of indifference.
is founded uponhe principle
* 1. 297-
8o Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
which Walpdle tried with imperfect success to embody in
his work — the principle of suspense; and it is to this
method, probably,' that she owed not only her immediate
popularity, but much of her importance, in literary history.
The essentially dramatic quality of her stories is shown by
the fact which I have already pointed out, that all but one
were dramatized, and most of the resulting plays were suc-
cessfully performed. It is interesting to notice that her
handling of this element of suspense grows more skilful in
each successive book, excepting, perhaps, Gaston de Blonde-
vllle, which was an experiment in a new field. It may be
worth while to make a very brief survey of the different
plots from this point of view.
In The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne, Malcolm has slain
the Earl of Athlin. The Earl's widow survives him, with
two children, Osbert and Mary. Osbert, while wandering
about the country, is entertained in a peasant's cottage, and
a young peasant, Alleyn, guides him home. A festival is
held at the castle, and Alleyn wins first place in the games.
As a reward, he .is permitted to dance with Mary, and at
once falls in love with her. Osbert, wishing to avenge his
father, summons- the clan for an attack on the Castle of
Dunbayne. They succeed in getting inside the castle, but
find that Malcolm has been warned by spies, and has armed
men ready to seize them. Osbert and Alleyn are both im-
prisoned, but Alleyn escapes just in time to save Mary, who
is being carried off by Malcolm's horsemen. He leads the
clan in an attempt to rescue Osbert. Malcolm brings Osbert
to the ramparts, and tells the besiegers that the moment of
attack is the moment of Osbert's death. The only ransom
he will accept is the gift of Mary as his wife. Mary is
ready to consent in order to save her brother, although she
loves Alleyn. Alleyn finally succeeds in getting one of the
soldiers on guard to help Osbert escape. Meanwhile,
Osbert: has become acquainted with the widow and daughter
of Malcolm's brother, who have been defrauded of their
Contribution to the Novel 81
property, and are kept imprisoned in the castle. A relative
of theirs, the Count de Santmorin, is received at the Castle
of Athlin after Osbert's return, and asks for Mary's hand,
but she is unwilling to receive him as a suitor. Malcolm
besieges the castle, and is mortally wounded by Osbert.
After he has been taken back to his own castle, he confesses
to the Baroness that her son did not die, but was en-
trusted to some peasants. In the meantime, there has been
a second attempt to carry off Mary, this time by the Count.
She is again rescued by Alleyn, and they go on to the Castle
of Dunbayne, where Osbert and Laura, the daughter of the
Baroness, were about to be married when Mary's disap-
pearance caused delay. The Baroness immediately recog-
nizes Alleyn as her son by his resemblance to his father,
and confirms her recognition by finding the strawberry-
mark on his arm. A double wedding is celebrated — Osbert
and Laura, Alleyn and Mary.
It will be clear from this brief rcsumt that only rather
ordinary means of suspense are employed here, as in the
case of Mary's two abductions, with the opportune rescue.
The most striking instance is the scene in which Osbert is
brought to the ramparts, and his clansmen are warned that
if they attack, his life is lost. It is evident, of course, when
Alleyn falls in love with Mary, that something must be done
to prove him of noble birth, and as soon as we find out that
the Baroness has had a son, the ending is clear.
A Sicilian Romance shows a decided advance in plot-
making. In fact, it may be said that there is too much plot :
the events follow each other with the rapidity of a moving
picture. The very first part of the story shows the use of
suspense in exciting the reader's curiosity. The Marquis
of Mazzini has been married a second time, to a very beauti-
ful and pleasure-loving woman. Madame de Menon, a
friend of his first wife, has charge of the education of his
two daughters. The southern wing of the castle has been
closed for years, but a mysterious light has been seen there,
82 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
which has aroused the anxiety of Madame de Menon and the
superstition of the servants. One of the servants, Vincent,
on his death-bed tries to tell -the secret, and does confess to
the priest, but dies before he can tell Madame de Menon.
Ferdinand, the son of the marquis, comes of age, and there
is a great party to celebrate his majority. The marchioness
is jealous because Hippolitus, Count de Vereza, whom she
admires, prefers Julia. He leaves unexpectedly. Julia
and Emilia are obliged to give up their rooms to the mar-
chioness, and are put into rooms adjoining the southern
wing. Here they are frightened .by strange noises, and tell
Ferdinand, who explores the wing, but finds nothing, Hip-
politus returns, and declares his love for Julia, but the
marquis insists that she shall marry the Duke de Luovo.
Ferdinand and Hippolitus plan an elopement, but it is pre-
vented, and Julia is imprisoned. Her maid helps her to
escape. The Duke searches for her in vain. Madame de
Menon leaves the castle, finds Julia, and takes her to the
monastery of St. Augustine, to the protection of the church.
From this point, the story is a series of escapes and dis-
coveries. Julia is about to become a nun, to avoid being
given back to her father, when Ferdinand comes and tells
her that Hippolitus is not dead, as she has heard. They
leave the monastery, and reach a ship which is to take them
to Italy, but are shipwrecked. They take refuge in a villa.
Meanwhile Hippolitus has come in search of Julia, and finds
that she has left the monastery. He loses, his way, and
arrives at a ruin, where he finds a crowd of banditti, with
a man who seems to be dying. In fleeing from the banditti,
he reaches a chamber where he finds Julia. Some officers
come to their aid, but more banditti arrive, and overpower
them. Julia and Hippolitus escape. They are pursued by
the Duke and his followers ; Julia leaves Hippolitus resisting
them, and runs into a cavern. She goes through a floor and
closes it, wanders on until she reaches another door, and
unbolts it. Through this she enters a room, and finds a
Contribution to the Novel 83
woman who greets her as a daughter. She has reached
the southern wing of the castle, and the secret is revealed.
The marquis shut his first wife up here, because he wished
to marry another woman, and here he has kept her all these
years. Julia remains with her mother, going out into the
passage whenever the marqu-s comes with food. He re-
solves to kill his wife, because he wants to put the proof of
his guilt out of the way. He puts poison in the food he
brings to hef, but on that very day Hippolitus has traced
Julia to her mother's chamber, and they make their escape
just after the marquis* visit. The marquis, on returning to
his room, feels dizzy and faint, and a servant finds him in
agony. Ferdinand runs to the room of his stepmother, and
finds her stabbed by her own hand. A letter beside her tells
the marquis she has poisoned him. The marquis, before he
dies, tells Ferdinand about his mother. Julia and Hippolitus
are married, and the family is happily united.
It is easy to see the opportunity for suspense in the var-
ious wanderings and reunions. Some good examples are
found in Julia's flight. Madame De Menon, when she starts
out, does not find Julia in the cottage where she had expected
to take refuge, and it seems for a time that the plan has mis-
carried. Again, Julia thinks she is pursued by the Duke,
but finds that her pursuer is a man who is trying to recover
his daughter. The same situation occurs when the Duke
thinks he has found Julia, and discovers that he has been
following the wrong couple. The most striking example
of suspense, however, is Vincent's attempt to tell the secret,
and his dying before he can reveal it. The reader does not
discover the truth until far along in the story, when Julia
comes upon her mother in the secret chamber.
The Romance of the Forest has more simplicity of plot,
and better treatment of suspense as a means of arousing
interest. At the very first our curiosity is excited, when
La Motte, inquiring his way at the cottage in the woods, is
asked to take away a beautiful and distressed girl. When
84 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
they come to the ruined abbey, and decide to stay there, we
are constantly kept in suspense as to whether their hiding-
place will be discovered. The peculiar behavior of La
Motte, when he first sees the Marquis of Montalt, shows
that there is some dark secret between them. When Theo-
dore, after rescuing Adeline from the marquis' villa, wounds
the marquis, and is arrested, we fear evil consequences.
Another moment of suspense comes when Adeline has been
given once more into the charge of La Motte in the abbey,
and the marquis, after seeing a note which Adeline has
written to Theodore, orders La Motte to kill her. Again,
Theodore is about to be executed when Louis La Motte
hears of accusations which have been made against the
marquis, and has the execution delayed. It develops that
Adeline is the daughter of the marquis' brother, whom he
has murdered in order to get the property. He discovered'
her identity by her mother's seal on the letter she had writ-
ten, and had intended to have her put out of the way also.
A characteristic use of suspense in this story is found where
Adeline is obliged to stop reading at an exciting point in
the manuscript, because her light goes out. Another time
of anxiety is at the apparent discovery of La Motte's hid-
ing-place, when the intruder turns out to be his own son.
^Jlh^__Myst£ric^ of JLLdolfrluLJs full of,.compHeatiojis and
unexpected turns, but the main story earn- be told in few
words. Emily St. Aubert and her father; after Madame
St. Aubert's death, set out on a journey. They meet Val-
ancourt, who falls in love with Emily. During the journey
St. Aubert dies, leaving Emily to the care of her aunt.
This aunt, after some encouragement oL,Ya]ancoiirt, for-
bids the marriage, and herself marries Montoni, an Italian.
They take Emily to Venice, and afterward to Montoni's
castle, Udolpho, in the Apennines. The. rest .of. the story
narrates Emily's adventures in the castle, her escape, her
reception in the Chateau de Villefort, and her final union
with Valancourt. It would be superfluous to mention all
. Contribution to the Novel 85
the places in this story where Mrs. Radcliffe makes use of
suspense. " Before they leave home, Emily sees her father
looking intently at a miniature which she knows is not a
picture of her mother. When he is dying, he asks her to
burn certain papers without looking at them. In burning
them,, she notices involuntarily two lines of writing which
make a terrible impression upon her. She is tempted to
read on, but obeys her father's request. Her curiosity re-
mains unsatisfied, and the reader's is still more so, for he
has not even seen the two lines. The most famous incident
in the story is that of the black veil. Emily has been told
of a mysterious picture, concealed behind a black curtain.
Coming upon it by accident, she is urged by curiosity to lift
«s the curtain. She falls senseless to the floor, and. it is not
until the end of the book that we find out what she has seen.
Another scene almost as hair-raising is the visit of Emily
and Dorothee to the room of the dead marchioness, when
the black pall on the bed begins slowly to rise, and Emily is
sure that she sees peering from beneath it a human face.
The disappearance of Ludovico from this same room is
another good example of suspense; it is not until after
many pages that we get the explanation — a band of smug-
glers has been using that wing of the chateau as a hiding-
place for stolen goods, and they have carried off Ludovico
to encourage the belief that the rooms are haunted. The
wholq book is a study in suspense; we art interested not
so much in the adventures themselves as in the outcome of
the adventures, the explanation of the mysteries.
The Italian has perhaps the most dramatic plot of all.
In its essential theme it. is rather hackneyed, for it is the
old story of true love which does not run smooth. Vin- .
centio di Vivaldi has seen Ellena Rosalba at church, and has
fallen in love with her. He forms an acquaintance with
her and her aunt, and visits them at their villa. His father
and mother, however, object to the connection. The monk,
Schedoni, conspires with. Vivaldi's mother, the Marchesa,
86 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
to get Ellena out of the way. She is first taken to a con-
vent, but Vivaldi finds her, and effects her escape. They
are about to be married, when they are arrested in the name
of the Inquisition. Vivaldi is imprisoned at Rome; Ellena
is taken to a lonely house on the sea-shore, where occurs
the scene mentioned before — that in which Schedoni, about
to kill her, recognizes his own picture about her neck, and
thinks that she is his daughter. At the end of the book,
Schedoni poisons both himself and the monk who has be-
trayed him. Ellena finds her mother in the nun who has
befriended her; she learns that, she is the niece, not the
daughter, of Schedoni; and she and Vivaldi are happily
Suspense is a powerful element in the story. Vivaldi,
in his visits to Ellena's villa, meets by the ruined fort a
mysterious monk who warns him not to go on. The appear-
ances and disappearances of this monk excite our curiosity,
especially when Vivaldi follows him into the ruin, and we
are not told what he has found. When Vivaldi and Paulo
visit the place together, Vivaldi tells Paulo to pause and
consider whether he can depend upon his courage, for it may
be severely tried. This, again, arouses wonder as to what
Vivaldi has discovered. The whole incident of Vivaldi's
visit to the convent in disguise and his rescue of Ellena
keeps us constantly in suspense as to the outcome. In the
house of the assassin, Ellena's fate trembles in the balance.
In the Inquisition-scenes our attention is held by the mys-
terious voice which speaks to Vivaldi in his cell, and which
afterwards accuses Schedoni ; we can easily believe that 'the
silence of expectation rapt the court.'
One way in which Mrs. RadclifTe reinforces this element
oLsjuspjensels by tfie use of muslcfor dramatic effect. She
was, aswe : Tiave""seen, very~Tond^6f music, and nT~all her
stories she introduces it freely. Her heroines, in gazing at
a beautiful landscape, are almost as sure to hear sweet music
as they are to compose poetry. But it is not used merely
Contribution to the Novel 87
to enforce description; it has often a more distinct aim.
A striking example is the scene in The Italian, where Sche-
doni and the Marchesa are planning Ellena's death :
'Aye/ muttered the Confessor, still musing, — 'in a chamber of
that house there is '
.'What noise is that?" said the Marchesa, interrupting him.
They listened. A few low and querulous notes of the organ
sounded at a distance, and stopped again.
'What mournful music is that?' enquired the Marchesa in a
tremulous voice. 'It was touched by a fearful hand 1 Vespers
were over long ago!'
'Daughter,1 observed Schedoni, some ./hat sternly, 'you said you
had a man's courage. Alas i you have a woman's heart*
'Excuse me, father ; I know not why I feel this agitation, but
I will command it. That chamber?' . . .
'A passage leads to the sea/ continued Schedoni. . , .";"
'There, on the shore, when darkness covers it; there, plunged
amidst the waves, no stain shall hint of
'Hark !' interrupted the Marchesa, starting, 'that note again !'
The organ sounded faintly from the choir, and paused, as be-
fore. In the next moment, a slow chaunting of voices was
heard, mingling with the rising peal, in a strain particularly
melancholy and solemn.
'Who is dead?' said the Marchesa, changing countenance; 'it
is a requiem !'
Here the music has a direct dramatic relation to the action,
in its working upon a guilty soul.
Similar examples, where music plays a part in the course
of the narrative, are found in the earlier novels. In The
Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne, Osbert is confined in the
castle of his enemy when 'the soft notes of a lute surprised
his attention/ Through this he is led to discover the pres-
ence in the castle of the two ladies, one of whom immediately
inspires his love.
/\ In The Romance of the Forest, Adeline is recalled from
melancholy and despair to hopefulness by strains of music
which, by changing her mood, seem to hint at the happy
outcome of her troubles. Tke^Mysteries of Udolpho makes
83 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
constant use of music to help in maintaining suspense. Per-
haps the most dramatic instance is the scene in which Emily
and the old servant, Dorothee, visit the chamber of the dead
'I will only tell what happened. My lord, the Marquis '
'Hush, Dorothee, what sounds were those?' said Emily.
Dorothee changed countenance, and, while they both listened,
they heard, on the stillness of the night, music of uncommon
Dibelius speaks of the tendency to emphasize individual)
scenes as a characteristic which distingoiishes_Mrs. Rad-/
cliffe's method from that of Fielding and ^nolietT) This,
it seems to me, is proof that her style is more-oistinctly
dramatic. In thinking of one of Mrs. Radcliffe's storiesN
as in thinking of a play, one is inclined to remember striking ! ^
scenes rather Jiian a continuous^narrative. Especially is?
true_in^jr/tg Mysteries of Udolpho and Ttie~~ltalian.
Certain definite pictures stand out — Madame Montoni's
burial ; the duel of Montoni and the Count ; the visit of
Emily and Dorothee to the marchioness* apartment ; the
scene in the bandits' cave ; Ellena, aroused from sleep in
her gloomy chamber to find Schedoni bending over her ; •
Ellena and Vivaldi standing before the priest ready for the
marriage ceremony, rudely interrupted by the band of <
In this matter of structure, one can hardly deny that Mrs.
Radcliffe made a contribution which was distinctive and
important. Her deliberate use of suspense as an artistic
principle is something entirely different from the method of
Richardson and Fielding in shaping the incidents of their
stories to fit into a general plan. Just how far her method
affected later writers is a question which it would be diffi-
cult to answer conclusively. Scott had a strong feeling for
the individual scene, and we know that in many ways he
was influenced by Mrs. Radcliffe's work. The grej.t novels
of the nineteenth century show a combination of the picar-
Contribution to the Novel 89
esque and the dramatic methods, with the emphasis, prob-
ably, upon the latter. The short stories, from Poe down
to the latest attempjgjin^)iir_inaga2inesr ar<Tf rmnlfeH" upon
the principle of suspense ;• and the modern detective story,
with its elaborate niystification^jyidjte^
solution, no doubt owes much to Mrs, Radcjjffe's jnethods.
She gave a new emphasis to action— not action in and for
itself, as in the picaresque novel, but action as bringing
about complications, and resolving them.
It seems hardly fair, then, to think of the •'Gothic* novel
as a mere side-issue in the development of the type — a 'blind
alley' leading nowhere. Walpole, with his clumsy begin-
nings, and Mrs. Radcliffe, with the perfected method,
added something to the plot as Richardson and Fielding had
conceived it, and so had their direct share in the develop-
ment of the novel.
Mrs. Radcliffe's influence upon the subject-matter of the
upon its structure. Without going into detail upon . this
Question, we mav briefly recall the general character of her
contribution. Scott says of her that she appeals 'to those \
powerful and general sources of interest, a latent sense of ./
supernatural awe, and curiosity concerning whatever is/
hidden and mysterious.' /
In this appeal Scott himself followed her. Certain of his
novels, like Woodstock and Anne of Geierstein, remind us
of Mrs. Radcliffe not only in subject-matter, but in treat-
ment. 'Gothic' themes persisted in the literature of the
first half of the nineteenth century. Mrs. Shelley, in
Frankenstein, produced a tale of terror which carried the
supernatural into the pseudo-scientific. Maturin's Melmoth
the Wanderer makes striking use of physical immortality as
a means of spiritual torture. For stories of mystery we
have Bulwer's Zanoni and Godwin's St. Leon. Crime be-
comes an important element in novels like Bulwer's Eugene
Aram, Godwin's Caleb Williams, and Ainsworth's Rook-
90 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
ivood and Jack Sheppard. This tendency to picture the life
and character of criminals is shown later in Dickens, and in
the vivid representation of outlaw-life which we find in
Lorna Doonc.- And the climax of Gothicism, with its appeal
to the 'sense of supernatural awe and curiosity concerning
whatever is hidden and mysterious,' came in the middle of
the century with Emily Bronte's Withering Heights.
In America the influence_is qmte._as striking,- Charles
Brockden Brown shows perhaps most directly and unmis-
takably the res'emblance to Mrs. Radcliffe. Hawthorne, and
Poe are to a considerable- extent 'Gothic' in their treatment
of the supernatural and tiiejiiysterious. Poe also resembles
Mrs. Radcliffe in the fact that his chief aim seems to be to
produce in his reader a certain emotional effect, and in his
method of exciting interest by suspense.
We may say, then, that Mis. Radcliffe's contribution to
the nineteenth-century novel was not only a matter of ,
structure, but a certain more indefinite spirit — the spirit off
curiosity and awe before the mystery of things. As ml
structure her method of dramatic suspense was combined,
with the picaresque type which had preceded it, so in theme
this new romantic spirit blended with the other spirit of
realism and satire that the earlier and greater novelists had
introduced. Dickens is following, part of the time, in trie:
footsteps of realists like Fielding and Smollett. But when,
in Great Expectations, we see Miss Havisham by her dusty
dressing-table, on which lies the satin slipper turned yellow
with age, or gaze at the banqueting-table with the wedding-
cake mouldering in the centre, we might be in the dread
chamber of the chateau where Emily and Dorothee found
the clothes of the marchioness lying just as she had thrown
them off, 'and, on the dressing-table, a pair of gloves and a
long black veil, which, as Emily took it up to examine, she
1 perceived was dropping to pieces with age.' In the first
part of Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte gives a vivid and ap-
parently realistic picture of a child's suffering. But in her
portrayal of Rochester she seems to be returning, in some
Contribution to the Novel
degree, to Mrs. Radcliffe's conception of the 'villain-hero/
Still more is this true of Emily Bronte, in her amazing and
terrific picture of Heathcliffe.
Many people have considered that Mrs. Radcliffe's most
valuable contribution to the novel was her use of natural
scenery. Miss Reynolds has shown that eighteenth-century
novelists in general had little interest in the surroundings of
their heroes. Except in the novels of Charlotte Smith,
there had been little use of landscape in fiction until, as Miss
Reynolds says, 'In these novels by Mrs. RadclifTe the roman-
tic landscape was presented in its complete form/1
It is unnecessary to go into any discussion of the im-
portance of scenery in the later novels. We may present it
as our general conclusion that Mrs. Radcliffe modified to
some degree both the structure and the theme of the novel.
In structure she developed the principle of suspense, adapt-
ing to fiction more completely than had been done before the
technique of the drama. In the matter of theme her con-
tribution was twofold, dealing both with the supernatural
and with the natural — that is, with natural scenery. —^
One must of course realize that in none of these
fields did Mrs. Radcliffe take the very first step. Wai-
pole, as I have said before, made some use of dramatic
climax and suspense, although it was pretty feeble. Thomas
Leland, in his Longsword, published in 1762, has the earl
kept in ignorance of the fate of his household, but the
interruption to his inquiries is not very reasonable :
Now, when restored to a degree of tranquillity, he again
offered at some inquiries on his part, of his house, his son and
wife, but was instantly interrupted by Randolph, who reminded
him of rest1
The supernatural — or rather, the apparently supernatural,
with a natural ending, quite in the style of Mrs. Radcliffe —
is found in Smollett's Ferdinand, Count Fathom, where
Melvil, going to mourn in the church where he supposes his
1 The Treatment of Nature in English Poetry, p. 2i<*
1 Longsword i. 131.
92 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
love to be buried, sees what he thinks to be her spectre, but
discovers that it is the living woman. The treatment here is
much more suggestive of Mrs. Radcliffe's method than the
clumsy magic of Walpole's tale. Charlotte Smith had made
some use of landscape, and others, as Miss Reynolds points
out, had introduced little touches of description. Smollett
has* one passage which Miss Reynolds does not mention,
Found himself benighted in the midst of a forest, far from
the habitations of men. The darkness of the night, the silence
and solitude of the place, the indistinct images of the trees that
appeared on every side, 'stretching their extravagant arms
athwart the gloom/ conspired with the dejection of spirits
occasioned by his loss, to disturb his fancy, and raise strange
phantoms in his imagination.1
This is quite in the tone of 'Gothic* description, especially
when we realize that it leads up to a scene of robbery.
But, after all, a first step is not necessarily a decisive step.
These tentative beginnings might lead to nothing if Mrs.
Radcliffe had not assembled the scattered hints, and shaped
them into a distinctly characteristic method, into a type of
novel strong enough to win popularity. Smollett's sug-
gestion of -Gothicism/ Walpole's patchwork of ghosts and 1
giants, even the attempt at historical romance in LongswordSX
might have had little effect upon the development of the \
novel, if 'Gothic* themes had not been triumphantly estab- ^
lished in The Romance of the Forest and The Mysteries of
Mrs. Radcliffe did, then, make a definite and important
contribution to the novel. One question, however, remains.
If she did make such a decided change in structure^such a
considerable addition in theme, how does it happen that
her contribution was not in itself more permanent? Why
are her books relegated to the darkest and dustiest corner
of the library shelves — if, indeed, the modern library own*
them at all ?
1 Ferdinand, Count Fathom, p. 145.
* Contribution to the Novel 93
The answer lies in one undeniable weakness — her failure]
to individualize her characters. It has been saicTlhat WC~
are interested in the places which Scott describes because \
we always associate them with the people that he has 1
created. Quite the opposite is true of Mrs. Radcliffe. We '
are interested in her people, for the most part, only because
of the situation or the place in which they happen to find
This lack of characterization leads, naturally, to a loss of J
interest after one reading. At first, as Talfourd says, we
put ourselves into the place of the hero or heroine, and
follow the adventures with an almost personal interest. But
when once the outcome is known, there is no incentive to
rereading; there are no characters which fascinate us by
their humanness, so that we wish to associate with them over
and over again.
Then, too, lack of character-drawing leads to lack of
motivation. When the people have no individuality, there
is no reason why they should do one thing more than
another. Therefore situation is emphasized in and for it-,
self ; there is usually no logical relation of action to char-
acter. It is this condition that, in a play, gives melodrama ;
and, indeed, Mrs. Radcliffe's novels have to those of George
Eliot or of Scott at his best a relation not unlike that of
melodrama to genuine tragedy or tragi-comedy. ~~"
Different conditions confront us, however, when we meas-
ure her by the novelists who were her immediate contem-
poraries. Novels were being turned out in ever increasing
numbers, but only a few of the writers received anything
like the recognition which was accorded Mrs. Radcliffe.
Those most prominently mentioned in the reviews of the
time are Matthew Gregory Lewis, Mrs. Inchbald, and Char-
Lewis has already been spoken of. There is no doubt
that he received much of his inspiration from Mrs. Rad-
cliffe's Mysteries of Udolpho, although, as has been said be-
fore, he may in turn have given her some suggestions for
94 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
The Italian. In his psychological treatment of character
he has probably surpassed her ; some real power of analysis
is shown in the monk's struggle between religion and pas-
sion.' But the crudity of his horrors make his book absurd ;
it survives, so far as it survives at all, as a literary curiosity.
Byron wrote of it :l 'These descriptions ought to have been
written by Tiberius at Caprea— they are forced — the phil-
ter-ed ideas of a jaded voluptuary. It is to me inconceivable
how they could have been composed by a man of only
twenty.' The cynicism of the book, and its open disregard
of conventional morality, called forth reviews which were
distinctly unfavorable. Although Lewis was for a time
much talked of, he was a man of one book, and his influence
was not equal to that of Mrs. Radcliffe.
One of the reviews of' The Mysteries of Udolpho closes
with these words : 'This is the best composition of this kind
that has appeared since Mrs. Inchbald's Simple Story/2
The expression, 'this kind/ is a little puzzling here. The
reviewer must surely be thinking of fiction in general, for,
except that they are both fiction, two compositions could
hardly be more unlike than The Mysteries of Udolpho and
A Simple Story.
Mrs. Inchbald's book was very popular, and it is not hard
to understand why it should have been so. Its chief recom-
mendation is that it really is 'A Simple Story' ; the language
is unaffected, and the situations and emotions are of the sort
that have a general appeal. But in structure it is faulty;
the break of seventeen years in the middle of the story is
awkward, especially so because after the seventeen years
we have to readjust completely our ideas of the principal
characters. Moreover, the ethical purpose of the book is
rather too obvious for successful art. Mrs. Radcliffe, it is
true, was strictly moral ; her stories may all be said to be
elaborations of the theme, 'those that were good shall be
happy'; but her main interest does not lie there. Mrs.
1 Journal, Dec. 6, 1813.
* English Review 23. 464.
Contribution to the Novel 95
Inchbald is a follower of Rousseau, in that her book is to
some extent an educational treatise in disguise.
Mrs. Smith may more justly be considered a rival of Mrs.
Radcliffe, for we find in her work two of Mrs. Radcliffe's
most notable characteristics — the so-called 'Gothic* element,
and the interest in natural scenery. These characteristics
are most prominent, however, in The Old Manor House,
which was published in 1793, after A Sicilian Romance and
The Romance of the Forest. So it is quite possible that
Mrs. Smith deliberately imitated the methods which were
bringing her sister-novelist success.
She evidently had a genuine love of nature, and some of
her English landscapes are very well done. Miss Mitford
referred to her as a 'landscape poet.'1 But when she at-
tempted foreign scenes, the result was less satisfactory. I
have spoken of Mrs. Radcliffe's habit of steadying her
imagination by reference to books of travel, as for instance
in her adaptation of Mrs. Piozzi's descriptions of Venice.
If Mrs. Smith consulted any books of travel, either she was
unfortunate in her source, or she made no geographical
distinction between North and South America. Her de-
scription of early spring in a Canadian wilderness is
On the opposite side of the river lay an extensive savannah,
alive with cattle, and coloured with such a variety of swamp
plants, that their colour, even at that distance, detracted some-
thing from the vivid green of the new-sprung grass. . . .
The acclivity on which the tents stood sinking very suddenly on
the left, the high cliffs there gave place to a cypress swamp,
. . . while on the right the rocks, rising suddenly and sharply,
were clothed with wood of various species ; the evergreen oak,
the scarlet oak, the tulip tree and magnolia, seemed bound to-
gether by festoons of flowers, some resembling the convolvuluses
of our gardens, and others the various sorts of clematis, with
vignenias, and the Virginia creeper. . . . Beneath these
, fragrant wreaths that wound about the trees, tufts of rhodo-
dendrons, and azalea, of andromedas and calmias, grew in the
most luxuriant beauty; and strawberries already ripening, or
* Letters 2. 29. '
g6 Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
even ripe, peeped forth among the rich vegetation of grass and
And this spring is supposed to follow 'only a few days after
the severest weather, which had buried the whole country in
But Mrs. Smith, though inferior to Mrs. Radcliffe in de-
scription and plot, has surpassed her in one direction. She
has created one triumphantly successful character.- Mrs.
Rayland, in The Old Manor House, never announcing her
intention of making young Orlando her heir, yet governing
his destiny by her slightest nod, and maintaining his whole
family in awe, is a masterpiece. If Charlotte Smith had
developed more fully the power of character-drawing which
she showed in this one figure, she would occupy a very dif-
ferent place in the line of novelists from her present obscure
niche. But she wrote, for the most part, hurriedly, and
under pressure of financial need. Mrs. Carter, writing of
one of the earlier books to Mrs. Montagu, says :
I was glad to find that you were pleased with the 'Orphan of
the Castle.' I heartily wish it was fashionable enough to be of
any essential benefit to the author, who has been obliged to pur-
chase her freedom from a vile husband, by giving up part of the
little fortune she had left ; so that she lias at present little more
than a hundred a year to support herself and six or seven
This personal note was rather common in the consider-
ation of books by feminine authors. Several reviews, not
very favorable in tone, of books by women, add as an ex-
tenuating circumstance that the writer has a worthy object,
the support of children, parents, or a husband, as the case
may be. The difference in attitude in the reviews of Mrs.
Radcliffe's work is very noticeable. There is never any
mention of her personal circumstances ; the books are con-
sidered wholly upon their merits, and, in the case of the
earlier ones, the reviewer is evidently uncertain whether to
1 The Old Manor House 3. 349.
1 Letters, June 30, 1788.
Contribution to the Novel 97
attribute them to a man or a woman. That Mrs. Radcliffe
stood apart from the general crowd of feminine writers who
were taking possession of the field of fiction, is evident from
a comment in The Pursuits of Literature, by T. Mathias, a
production which is rather severe upon writers in general
and novelists in particular :
Mrs. Charlotte Smith, Mrs. Inchbald, Mrs. Mary Robinson,
Mrs. etc. etc. though all of them are ingenious ladies, yet they
are too frequently whining or frisking in novels, till our girls'
heads turn wild with impossible adventures, and now and then
are tainted with democracy. . . . Not so the mighty magician
of The Mysteries of Udolpho, bred and nourished by the Floren-
tine Muses in their sacred solitary caverns amid the paler
shrines of Gothic superstition, and in all the dreariness of in-
chantment: a poetess whom Ariosto would with rapture have
acknowledged, as the
Damigella Trivulzia al sacro speco. (O. F. c. 46) *
In summing up the impressions gained from this study,
one is inclined to try to relate literature to life, and to con-
clude that the chief defect in Mrs. Radcliffe's art was a
natural result of her temperament. Her journals are filled
with descriptions of scenery ; there are few comments upon
people. She has left no evidence of any strong personal
friendships outside of her own family. It is natural to con-
clude that she was not keenly interested in the men and
women around her, that she had not a quick eye for the
little oddities of human character. The fairies gave her
many gifts, but they held back the one which a novelist
most needs. With the possible exception of Schedoni, she
has not left us a single figure which deserves a place in the
portrait-gallery of fiction. But the gifts were not wasted.
They made her immensely popular at a time when the novel
had, perhaps, advanced about as far as it could along one
line and was ready for a change. They made it possible
for her to influence men and women who possessed the one
recious gift which she lacked, and, by her influence upon
them, to affect the whole development of the novel.
1 Pursuits of Literature, p. 20.
/. References to Magazines.
Academy, XXX, p. 321. Nov. 13, 1826.
Anglia Bciblatt, XXVI, p. 211, July, 1915.
(Review by Bernard Fehr of Hoffmann's Studien
sum Englischen Schauer-roman.)
Anglia Beiblatt, XXVII, p. 41.
(Review by Bernard Fehr of Wilhelm Ad. Paterna's
Das Ubersinnliche im Englischen Roman von Horace
Walpole bis Walter Scott.)
Anti- Jacobin, II, p. 420 and p. 446. June 4, 1798,
Athenaeum, Boston, XIII, p. 275. July I, 1823.
Athenaeum, London, 1858, Vol. II, p. 134. July 31.
1858, II, p. -321. Sept. ii.
1887, I, p. 791. June 1 8.
1887, II, p. 20. July 2. .
Bentley's Miscellany, XLVI, p. 573. 1859.
Blackwood's Magazine, XX, p. 105. July, 1826.
p. 113. July, 1826.
LXXV, p. 659. June, 1854.
Britannic Magazine, XI, p. 175. 1704.
British Critic, I, p. 148, p. 403.
IV, p. 186.
VII, p. 677- June, 1796.
VIII, p. 527. Nov., 1796.
XII, p. 670, Dec., 1708. v
XIII, p. 52. Jan.. 1799.
XIV, p. 313- Sept, 1709.
p. 549. Nov., 1709. *
p. 686. Dec., 1799.
XVII, p. 435. April, 1801.
p. 541. May, 1801.
XXX, p. 199, Aug., 1807.
p. 544. Nov., 1807.
\\ XXXVII, p. 205. Feb., 1811.
XXXVIII, p. 542. Nov., 1811.'
XL, p. 189. Aug., 1812.
XLI, p. 189, p. 206. Feb., 1813.
XLII, p. 295. Sept, 1813.
IV, p. 458. April, 1792.
XI, p. 402. Aug., 1794.
N. S. II, p. 164. Aug., 1814,
N. S. IX, p. 622. June, 1818.
Critical Review, LXVIII, p. 251. Sept., 1789.
N.Ar. I, p. 350. March, 1791.
N. Ar. Ill, p. 318.
N. Ar. XIII, p. 338. March, 1795.
N.Ar. XIV, p. 101. May, 1795.
p. 349- July, 1795-
N. Ar. XV, p. 480. Dec., 1795.
N.Ar. XVI, p. 222. Feb., 1796.
P- 359- April, 1796.
N.Ar. XIX, p. 173. Feb., 1797.
N. Ar. XX, p. 353. July, 1797.
N. Ar. XXIII, p. 472. Aug., 1798.
N. Ar. XXIV, p. 236.
N. Ar. XXVII, p. 356. Nov., 1799.
>.".:."•: P- 474- Dec., 1799.
p. 479. Dec., 1799.
N. Ar. XXXIV, p. 475.
N. Ar. XXXIX, p. 120.
N. Ar. XLV, p. 437. Dec., 1805.
Edinburgh Magazine, XVIII. June, 1826.
Edinburgh Review, XXXVIII, p. 360, May, 1823.
LIX, p. 327. July, 1834-
English Review, XV, p. 137. Feb., 1790.
XVIII, p. 259. Oct., 1791.
XIX, p. 70, Jan., 1792.
p. 248. April, 1792.
XX, p. 294. Oct., 1792.
p. 352. Nov., 1792,
XXIII, p. 455. June, 1794.
XXVI, p. 468. Dec., 1795.
European Magazine, III, p. 385. April, 1783.
IV, p. 387. Nov., 1783.
VII, p. 142. Jan., 1785.
XII, p. 390. Oct., 1787.
XIIL p. 56. Jan., 1788.
p. 105. Feb., 1788.
XLIII, p. 329. March, 1805.
XLIV, p. 255. July, 1805.
ioo Ann Radcliffe in Relation to Her Time
European Magazine, XVI, p. 378. Nov., 1789.
XVII, p. 308. April, 1790.
XXV, p. 308. March, 1704.
p. 467- June, 1794-
XXVII, p. 124. Feb., 1795-
XXXI, p, 35- Jan., 1797-
p. in. Feb., 1/97.
XXXV, p. 41. Dec., 1798.
XXXVI, p. 232. Oct., 1799-
XLIX, p. 89. March, 1806.
Gentleman's Magazine, LX, Pt. i, p. 550. June, 1790.
LXXIX, Pt. i, p. 188. Feb., 1809.
LXXXVI, Pt. 2, p. 334. Oct., 1816.
LXXXVIII, Pt. i, p. i2i. Feb., 1818.
p. 300. March, 1818.
XCI, Pt. 2, p. 451. Nov., 1821.
XCIII, Pt. 2, p. 87. July, 1823.
XCVI, Pt. i, p. 258. March, 1826.
Lady's Magazine, XXIII, p. 290. June, 1792.
XXVIII, p. 39- Jan., 1797-
N. S. IV, p. 408. July, 1823.
Ladies' Monthly Museum, XXIV, p. 45. July, 1826.
London Literary Gazette, May 27, 1826.
June 3, 1826.
Monthly Magazine, II, p. 899. Dec., 1796.
IV, p. 120. Aug., 1797.
p. 517. Supplement.
VII, p. 538. July, 1709.
IV, p. 182. March, 1823.
Monthly Review, III, p.1 91. Sept., 1790.
; XXIV, p. 464. Dec., 1797.
XXX, p. 471. Dec., 1709.
LXVII, p. 320. March, 1812.
Museum, N.'S. I, p. 94. ' Jan., 1826.
p. ioo. Feb., 1826.
p. 287. March, 1826.
p. 384. April, 1826.
II, p. 192. Aug., 1826
XII, p. 282. Sept., 1831.
XVII, p. 388. April. 1834.
XVIII, p. 438. Nov., 1834-
Museum of Foreign Literature and Science, VIII.
North American Review, XXIII, p. 503.
XXV, p. 183.
Portfolio, IX, p. 266.
XVI, p. 137.
Scots Magazine, LI, p. 645. Appendix, 1780,
LII, p. 438. Sept, 1790.
LIV, p. 292. June, 1792.
p. 598. Dec., 1792.
LVI, p. 771. Dec., 1794.
LVII, p. 382. June, 1795.
p. 720. Nov., 1795.
p. 774. Dec., 1795.
LIX, p. 266. April, 1797.
Spirit of the Public Journals, 1798, II, p. i.
1804, VIII, p. 129.
United States Review and Literary Gazette, II, p. i. April, 1827.
Universal Magazine, XCVI, p. 136. Feb., 1795.
Westminster Review, III, p. 487. April, 1825.
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5204 Ann Kadcliffe in
M3 relation to her time.
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